In operation since 1902, Chevron's Richmond Refinery sits on a peninsula that juts into California's San Francisco Bay. Major process units at the 240,000-b/d facility include crude distillation, hydrotreating, sulfur recovery, fluidized catalytic cracking, hydrocracking, catalytic reforming, and alkylation. The refinery produces gasoline, jet fuel, diesel, and lubricants.
In a move that would allow the Richmond Refinery to run higher volumes of sour crude yet decrease its overall emissions, Chevron has proposed a project to upgrade and replace equipment at the facility.
According to Chevron, the Energy and Hydrogen Renewal Project involves four steps. First, it would replace the refinery's 1930s-era steam boiler plant with a more efficient gas turbine cogeneration plant. Next, the company would replace the 40-year-old hydrogen plant with a new energy-efficient one. The $1 billion project also would entail modifying existing equipment to remove sulfur compounds and improve the purity of hydrogen that the refinery's processing plants use. Finally, Chevron would replace the refinery's two 1960s-era gasoline reformers with a single plant offering the same capacity as both.
The upgrade would equip the refinery to process a wide range of crude and produce six percent more California-grade gasoline. It would support 1,200 construction jobs and add 10 permanent jobs.
Permitting of the project began in early 2005 and concluded in July 2008. Chevron has secured environmental review and conditional use permits from the City of Richmond and an Authority to Construct permit issued by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
Shortly after receiving the conditional use permit, a group of environmental advocacy groups--Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), West County Toxics Coalition, and the Asia Pacific Environmental Network--filed a lawsuit challenging the city's environmental review of the project. Chevron has questioned the need for an environmental review because the proposed project is an upgrade to the existing facility and not an expansion.
Chevron halted work on the project in July 2009, resulting in numerous layoffs. As of September 28, 2010, all parties in the dispute had agreed to settlement discussions initiated and mediated by members of the California state legislature. A mediated agreement would add certainty to the project and thus provide Chevron an incentive to resume work on the upgrade.