Chevron Richmond Refinery

The Chevron Richmond Refinery is located on a 2,900 acre campus in Richmond, California (near San Francisco Bay). It employs more than 1,200 people and processes over 240,000 barrels of crude oil a day. The plant primarily produces transportation fuels such as gasoline, jet fuel, diesel, and lubricants for use in the transportation industry, though it also produces a number of other petroleum-based products.

The Chevron Richmond Refinery was originally constructed in 1901 and opened in 1902 by Standard Oil. When first opened, it processed 10,000 barrels of crude oil a day. As US demand for petroleum rose in the early 20th century, the Richmond Refinery expanded to meet this demand for petroleum products on the West Coast. Through this expansion, the refinery was instrumental in the transformation of Richmond from an agricultural community into an industrial town.

Throughout its history, the Chevron Richmond Refinery has changed its production to meet the current needs of the United States. In both World Wars, the refinery switched from production of gasoline for domestic consumption, to production of military-grade petroleum products including toluene and high-octane fuels. The plant underwent further changes in the 1970s and 1980s to come into compliance with new state and federal regulations to reduce air emissions and water pollution as well as new standards in the prevention of oil spills.

Despite the efforts the facility has taken in recent years to control air emissions and environmental hazards, in the mid 1980s the refinery dumped a large number of hazardous chemicals into the environment. These chemicals include mercury and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and still have a poisonous effect on wildlife habitats to the present day. The refinery also intermittently bypassed a wastewater treatment system in the years 1991-1995, and failed to make proper notifications regarding toxic releases to the environment. Consequently, Chevron Richmond Refinery agreed to pay $540,000 to settle the violation.

Until the 1980s, refineries made extensive use of the mineral asbestos, which was lauded as an excellent insulator. It was used to line a variety of equipment involved in refining processes, including reactors, tanks, pumps, pipes and heat exchangers. Like many oil refineries, the Chevron Richmond Refinery has likely used asbestos in the past due to its abundance and relatively inexpensive price. Long term exposure to asbestos causes serious health problems in individuals, often decades after contact. Mesothelioma, a deadly cancer caused by contact with asbestos, may be latent for 20 to 50 years before symptoms arise. Due to its long latency period, by the time symptoms are noticeable, the disease has already spread making conventional treatments ineffective.


Center for Land Use Interpretation

Environmental Protection Agency