Refining oil is a process by which crude petroleum is transformed into more useful products such as gasoline. It is a dangerous process, one that results in hundreds of safety incidents annually that are reported to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). However, while oil refinery incidents like explosions, fires and fatalities have prompted fundamental improvements to safety procedures in other countries, it appears that the U.S. is not catching on quite as quickly.
U.S. refineries sustain far higher financial losses than EU counterparts
The United States sustains financial losses from refinery incidents at a rate that is three times higher than the losses sustained by its European Union counterparts, according to a 2006 report by Swiss Re, the world’s second-largest reinsurer. In 2012 Swiss Re officials reported to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board that the incident gap between U.S. refineries and others across the world had only widened since their 2006 report. In short, U.S. oil refinery safety is moving in the wrong direction.
Richmond refinery incident prompts UC Berkeley report
Swiss Re concluded that flaws in safety procedures and employee alertness were partially responsible, and a new report prepared by UC Berkeley’s Labor Occupational Health Program seems to be in agreement. The report, released March 27, 2013, bases its recommendations on meetings with labor, trade groups and government agencies following the refinery fire of August 6, 2012 that took place at the Chevron Richmond Refinery in California. Deemed a Level 3 incident (the most severe class of incident) it is estimated that following August 6 approximately 15,000 individuals from the affected area sought medical attention for respiratory distress, eye irritation and other symptoms, with the asso