The only crude distillation unit of Chevron Corp’s refinery in Richmond, California is facing up to 6 months of shutdown after a fire broke out there last week.
The investigators and Chevron itself have refused to provide any timeframe for resuming the plant’s full operations at California’s second largest plant following the fire last week in its crude unit. Apparently, investigators have discovered severe damage in the pipe racks, heater and cooling towers.
According to reports Chevron submitted to the pollution regulators last week, the unit is expected to be shut down for several months, following the blaze at a pump which leaked a diesel-like substance. Meanwhile, a spokesperson from Chevron has insisted that there is only one crude oil unit at their plant and it was kept shuttered while the other parts of the plant operated.
Chevron is still undecided whether to continue operating its secondary units that are running on feedstock.
A small leak in the pipe was readily found by engineers of Chevron — with the alert as something that may have just saved the Contra Costa Country from numerous casualties.
“It was good they found the leak early … the sooner you find the (leak) and ignition point, the less fuel there is to burn at the ignition point.”
What the public and the investigators want to examine is why did Chevron not replace the part of the old pipeline that leaked when it was discovered last year during a maintenance check of the plant.
“The crude unit is still off-limits because of safety concerns”, where probes are conducted so as to determine the exact cause of the fire, although corrosion is highly suspected as the cause of the leak.
And as the plant is only producing gasoline at half of its normal capacity, the decreased output of the refinery has negatively affected the gas and energy prices as it increased from the average cost per gallon of USD 3.86 to USD 4.07.
Carmakers are recently starting to invest heavily on fuel cells with several of them already launching models.
Suzuki and Intelligent Energy have teamed up to create SMILE FC System Corp that will develop air-cooled fuel cell systems.
According from the announcement, their joint venture also consists of a non-exclusive license agreement that will give Suzuki the access to IE’s fuel cell technology to be employed on their vehicles. On the other hand, IE stands to benefit from the production expertise of Suzuki and the Japanese supply chain.
It’s indeed a huge step towards the commercialization of auto fuel-cell systems. In fact, IE’s air-cooled fuel cell system is in the Burgman scooter that became the world’s first such vehicle to get the European Union’s WVTA (Whole Vehicle Type Approval) in 2011.
Strong interest in fuel cell cars from the industrial sector and government departments in Korea, China and Japan have seen a promising growth.
For instance, General Motors has already allotted USD 2 billion in R&D and is slated to introduce fuel cell cars in Europe and America on 2016.
According to a prominent oil firm, fuel cell vehicles can possibly make up 40% of the global auto market by 2051. Automakers on their part, are saying that vehicles that run on natural gas might end up as only 5% of the total global number by 2040.
The British government has already introduced a new system supported by the automobile industry that will increase the progress of fuel car development.
Daimler, Toyota, Hyundai and General Motors all support the UK H2 Mobility in coming up with a plan to make fuel cell cars commercially available on 2015.
Other supporters are Nissan, Tata, ITM Power, BOC, Air Products, Air Liquide, Scottish and Southern Energy.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are gradually being known as one of the effective alternatives as the world moves to a reduction of carbon emissions in the future. They are very efficient as they can be fueled in a few minutes and does not have any tail-pipe emission but can still travel an equal range to that of the usual combustion engine.
The involved government departments and firms are set to confer in several months to plan the development of hydrogen fuel cell automobiles before the year ends.
According to a report, fuel-cell prices on a variety of applications can be expected to fall in the future, removing a crucial barring factor for the world to adopt it.
Barack Obama’s administration has backed the use of biofuels in powering its military, seeing it as a chance to immune itself from sharp fuel price fluctuations, especially after the Navy’s successful test of the technology.
But despite their efforts, the US Congress could stop the Defense Department from investing in alternative fuel until the price has become competitive to conventional sources.
The Navy has made its first attempts in “going green” in 2009 and made tests on the jet engines on the biofuel mix in 2010. However, the project was questioned in 2011 when the Navy reportedly spent USD 450,000 on biofuels (composed of chicken fat and algae), costing around USD 15 per gallon, which is quite expensive compared to the USD 3.60 for the usual fuel.
The plan was met with strong criticism for its being very costly. Moreover, the Department of Defense was reportedly obliged to implement budget cuts by reducing the number of its personnel, aircraft, ships and important military programs.
McCain insists the program is simply too expensive, saying “I was just reading, it’s the cost of one destroyer – $1.8bn extra – they want to spend on this green technology. The fact is, I just do not believe that we need to spend that kind of money on it.”
“Absolutely it was worthwhile to show that biofuels can compete and can be used in every single thing that we do in the navy. This shows that it’s operational. Everything before now has been a test. This shows we can use biofuels and other alternative energies in an operational manner,” said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.
Mabus is trying to reassure Republicans that there will be no big purchases of such biofuel until the time it becomes cost-competitive with conventional aviation fuel.
As they said, they only have to find a way to get local-made fuel which has a stable price and could be competitive with the usual oil.
Mabus also said that the test exercise will prove for the first time that aircraft carriers and jets can run with advanced biofuel as their energy sources.
For the carrier strike test, the Navy bought 450,000 gallons of alternative fuels amounting to USD 12 million (USD 27 a gallon) but because they were mixed with the conventional petroleum in a 50-50 blend, the final cost is roughly USD 15 a gallon. A strike force of 71 jet fighters, transport planes and helicopters set off on a demonstration flight off Hawaii this week using the biofuel mix.
Mabus added, “It was worthwhile to show that biofuels can compete and can be used in every single thing that we do in the Navy. Everything before now has been a test. This shows that we can use biofuels and other alternative energies in an operational manner.”
The modern biofuel used in the Navy vessels is a combination of cooking oil and algae made by Dynamic Fuels of Lousiana and Solazyme of San Francisco.
After the seemingly successful test exercise, the secretary of agriculture announced that the next stage would be to foster a local biofuel sector that is making fuel from inedible plant parts and other non-food stocks.
Mabus said that the Navy is still pushing through its aim of using alternative fuel for half of its requirements by 2020.