A compressor failure during a flaring event at the Martinez Refining Company in Martinez caused a stack to flare Friday night, catching the refinery, the fire department, air quality officials and dozens of local residents off guard when it candled into the sky.
The incident was reported at approximately 4:40 p.m., quickly lighting up the surrounding neighborhood and sending a plume of smoke into the night air. This site received a number of inquiries as firefighters raced to the refinery to pinpoint the origin of the glare and plume.
A follow-up report issued by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District read:
On December 9, 2022 at 1645 hours, Air District staff observed black visible plume in the sky over Martinez and traced it back to the LOP flare located at MRC.
Air District staff responded a total of 21 complaints from Martinez alleging black smoke and flaring. At the time of the flaring, the wind direction was blowing from the SW at 0-2 mph. In addition, Air District staff spoke with representatives from MRC. An MRC representative stated that a critical piece of equipment unexpectedly tripped offline and that as a result, process gases were routed to the LOP flare.
The flaring resulted in a reportable quantity of sulfur dioxide for exceeding 500 pounds. The MRC representative shared ground level monitoring data with Air District staff and no exceedances were observed. Air District staff observed that the flaring stopped at 1744 hours. Contra Costa County Hazardous Materials (HazMat) staff was onsite as well. HazMat collected air samples at various locations and supplied those samples to Air District staff for further analysis.
Air District will continue its investigation of the event. There have been no Notices of Violation issued at this time, but we anticipate discovery of regulatory violations as we move forward with our investigation.