KQED Climate Watch Senior Editor Craig Miller took this video Friday of the flaring at the ConocoPhillips refinery in Rodeo:

The flaring, caused by equipment failure that forced the refinery’s shutdown, has continued on and off over the past few days, and KQED’s Joshua Johnson talked about potential environmental impact with Aaron Richardson, a spokesman at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Here’s what Richardson communicated, as reported by Joshua:

  • The flaring this morning was under the reportable dangerous thresholds – part of the procedures of getting the plant back to normal.
  • The heavy black smoke and gases released were definitely from the incident that happened last week.
  • Contra Costa County has a local hazmat team, BAAQMD has ground-level facilities stationed around all the refineries as well as the normal ambient air monitoring system. Richardson is not sure how CC pulls the trigger on an incident warning, though. Hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide are usually released in a refinery incident; BAAQMD didn’t pick up unacceptable levels of either; ambient monitors around the facility weren’t picking up anything unacceptable.

The agency has five ground level monitoring stations around the plant. None of them picked up excesses of the regulatory one-hour standards for sulfur dioxide (one of the major pollutants).

Also, none of the ambient stations at Crockett or downwind at Vallejo picked up substantial increases in SO2, nothing near the federal or state standards for a 24-hour release. BAAQMD inspectors also took canister samples onsite; the results were very low to negligible.

Yesterday, KGO TV filed a report that included this health information for area residents:

The health department and refinery officials issued a Level 2 warning for Crockett and Rodeo, which means that some off-site impact was expected. They also notified Solano County health officials because the wind was potentially blowing material over toward Benicia, (Contra Costa County hazardous materials specialist Paul Andrews) said.

County hazardous materials teams and personnel from the refinery walked the communities throughout the incident but didn’t detect any elevated levels of hydrocarbons or sulfur dioxide, Andrews said…

The health department did not receive any reports of people experiencing adverse affects from the release, Andrews said. Hughes said no injuries were reported at the refinery.

Also yesterday, Conoco issued this statement, as reported by Reuters:

“Refinery crews at the ConocoPhillips Rodeo refinery continue making progress on work begun last weekend to restore operations, after an Oct 22 hydrogen supply and steam system disruption. The company will not be disclosing details of that work such as unit status, running rates or schedule.”

Health Update: ConocoPhillips’ Flaring 27 October,2010Jon Brooks


Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is the host and editor of KQED’s health and technology blog, Future of You. He is the former editor of KQED’s daily news blog, News Fix. A veteran blogger, he previously worked for Yahoo! in various news writing and editing roles. He was also the editor of EconomyBeat.org, which documented user-generated content about the financial crisis and recession. Jon is also a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S. He has written about film for his own blog and studied film at Boston University. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College.

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