Representatives from Chevron held a news conference at the company's Richmond refinery Monday afternoon in advance of a meeting planned by a number of regulatory agencies this evening.
Nigel Hearne, general manager of the refinery, spoke to reporters about the corroded pipe that caused the explosion and massive fire on Aug. 6 and a new federal criminal investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The fire started when a 5-foot section of pipe that was part of a 200-foot-long pipe failed because of high-temperature sulfidation corrosion, Hearne said.
The pipe had last been inspected in November 2011. Nineteen spots along the 200 feet of pipe were examined, but the particular 5-foot section that failed was not one of the parts inspected.
Hearne said Chevron officials did not realize that the pipe could potentially cause problems.
"If we had known, we would have repaired that pipe," he said.
He said Chevron has learned from the mistake and will take steps to ensure that a similar accident doesn't happen again.
"We learned what went wrong, and we'll take appropriate corrective action," Hearne said.
He said Chevron has already found another defective pipe that is now being replaced, and that the company has created an enhanced inspection program.
"We take exception to anyone" who says that Chevron is not concerned about the safety of its pipes, Hearne said.
A community meeting is scheduled tonight to update residents about the ongoing investigations into the Chevron fire and to address concerns over environmental and health hazards caused by the fire.
Speakers at the meeting will include representatives from Contra Costa Health Services, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office.
The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium and Convention Center at 403 Civic Center Plaza.
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