Shell Refinery Smoke Forces Health Advisory in Contra Costa County

Categories: Environment, Fire
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Contra Costa Health Services has lifted the health advisory it issued earlier this afternoon after some flaring at the Martinez Shell oil refinery sparked concerns.

At 1:31 p.m., the Contra Costa Health Services issued an Level 2 advisory, which is a warning to people with preexisting respiratory or other heath conditions, said Maria Duazo, Contra Costa County Health Services hazardous materials specialist. Officials lifted the advisory at 3 p.m.

At 12:40 p.m., the refinery warned that there was some kind of problem. "A vessel overpressurized," causing a pressure release valve to go off, Duazo told SF Weekly.

The valve "did what it was supposed to do," Duazo said. It released pressure by flaring, which churned out two puffs of black smoke and strong odors.

Contra Costa Health Services, located near the Shell refinery in Martinez, smelled traces of "mercaptan, which is the same odor that they put in natural gas," Duazo said.

Although this event occurred a day after a small fire at a different part of the Shell refinery, Duazo did not know if thew two incidents were related.

The Shell scare happened just a week after a massive fire burned at the Chevron refinery 22 miles away in Richmond. The fire burned for more than four hours, prompting officials to issue a a Level 3 health advisory. 

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