RICHMOND (KCBS) – State safety investigators have sealed off the No. 4 Crude Unit at the Chevron refinery in Richmond where Monday’s toxic fire began.

Officials said they didn’t want any workers in the processing unit until all interviews and inspections were complete.

One of the things investigators were looking at was safety protocols as they related to the leak. A union safety expert has expressed concern as to why the company didn’t shut down the unit sooner after it noticed the leak instead of waiting to figure out a fix-it plan.

But Chevron emergency services chief Mark Ayers said emergency teams followed their training as they evaluated the leak.

“This was a small, maybe 20 drips per minute type of a leak in this line,” said Ayers. “As they were observing this leak and starting to put together a plan of what we need to do to isolate that line, that’s when it started to increase. They backed away from that process area. As they backed away and started to put up cooling water, that’s when it opened up and initially found an ignition source and lit off.”

What was still in question was what steps were taken between the time the leak was discovered at 4:15 p.m. and time of ignition at 6:30.

A small controlled burn off of the remaining hydrocarbon left in the pipe continued, even though the unit was shut down.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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