City approves Chevron’s Richmond refinery revamp

Local officials have issued a final approval for Chevron Corp. to proceed with a long-stalled modernization project at its 257,000-b/d Richmond, Calif. (OGJ Online, July 22, 2014; July 11, 2014).

On July 29, members of the Richmond City Council decided by a vote of 5-0, with two abstentions, to approve Chevron’s proposed $1 billion modernization of the Richmond refinery, Chevron said in a posting to the Richmond refinery’s community web site.

The approval follows Chevron’s previous acceptance of an alternative, more environmentally friendly plan proposed by city officials for the project.

Now that the City of Richmond has approved the project’s final environmental impact report (EIR), the company said it would move quickly to request a California superior court to dismiss a writ placed on the original 2008 project that resulted from a lawsuit filed by opponents of the proposed revamp (OGJ Online, June 6, 2014).

Hoping to have a final decision from the court by the end of first-quarter 2015, and barring any further appeals, Chevron said it could begin project construction, which it expects will last from 18 months to 2 years.

Referred to as Alternative 11 in the project’s final EIR, the environmentally superior Alternative 11 will limit the amount of sulfur that the Richmond refinery can process, ensure greenhouse gas emissions from the plant will not increase, and result in additional reductions in health risks as well as other emissions.

The modernization project will replace some of the refinery’s oldest processing equipment with safer modern technology meeting some of the toughest air quality standards in the US but will not change the basic operation or capacity of the refinery (OGJ Online, Mar. 19, 2014).

The project’s main components include replacing a 1960s hydrogen plant with modern technology that is safer, cleaner, and 20% more energy efficient, which will allow the plant to process higher-quality hydrogen more efficiently and reliably.

While the revised project plan will reduce by half Chevron’s initial proposal for increasing the refinery’s sulfur processing capacity, the amended plan still will allow the plant flexibility to process crude oil blends with higher levels of sulfur, City of Richmond documents show.

After announcing earlier in July that it would double its environmental and community investment agreement with the City of Richmond to $60 million from an original proposal of $30 million (OGJ Online, July 22, 2014), Chevron also confirmed it has now tripled that investment to $90 million.

Contact Robert Brelsford at rbrelsford@ogjonline.com.

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