The small fire that ignited at Chevron's Richmond refinery last month is being ruled an accident. The fire started early in the morning on July 16, and firefighters put it out in about an hour.
In their report, Chevron investigators explain that the fire started during steam cleaning of a part of the refinery's fluid catalytic cracker. That's the part of the refinery that breaks large crude oil molecules down into smaller, more valuable ones, like gasoline and jet fuel. During the cleaning process, a valve leaked and hot crude oil leaked into a temporary hose, which failed. The oil was hot enough to catch fire without being exposed to any flames.
The company's investigators recommend that in the future, workers doing maintenance in that part of the refinery use hard pipes instead of hydrocarbon hose.
"Them using these hydrocarbon hose lines to steam the process out is normal standard practice throughout the refinery -- and refineries," said Eric Govan, an inspector with the Richmond Fire Department who is doing a separate investigation of the fire.
Govan said his findings, which he expects to complete next week, are similar to Chevron's.