Thursday, February 8, 2001
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Updated at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, February 8, 2001

Chevron plant flares, but no evacuation needed

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

Chevron’s Hawaii Refinery sent huge black clouds of smoke into the air this afternoon when it shut down the plant to correct an operational problem.

The refinery at Campbell Industrial Park began to shut down at about 1:15 p.m. today, but no one was in danger nor was evacuation required, a spokesman said.

Fire Capt. Richard Soo said the problem was a “water seal leak,” part of the hydrocarbon emission prevention system. The system was being bypassed, causing huge clouds of black smoke which were reported seen from surrounding areas.

“There is no evacuation, and no danger that we can see now,” Soo said.

The shut-down required venting of unusually large amounts of gases through the “flare,” a flame at the top of a tall smokestack, “and we are seeing extra smoke and flame” from the stack, company spokesman Albert D. K. Chee Jr. said.

From past experience, Chee said, the company believes the flare does not contain any toxic materials.

Correcting the problem, which was not initially described, will require that the plant be shut down for an undetermined amount of time, but Chee said he was not concerned about Chevron being able to “provide an adequate and reliable supply” of petroleum products.

Media were not allowed on the property, but the Honolulu Fire Department and the State Department of Health were notified as a matter of course, Chee said.

Chevon Hawaii issued a statement this afternoon saying that the situation was resolved by 2:15 p.m.

The company said the refinery's flare was used to process excess fuel gas while the plant experienced mechanical problems.

Chevon said it had called the fire department immediately and coordinated its operations with firefighters.

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