Refinery Odors & What You Can Do

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Conoco-Phillips held an odor class last Wednesday evening in Crockett and a class in Rodeo the week before. These classes were negotiated as part of an agreement between Conoco-Phillips and neighboring communities to help reduce potential impacts from the most recent refinery expansion.

Pollution and odors from the Conoco-Phillips refinery have been a long-time problem to the communities of Crockett and Rodeo.  As anybody driving by the refinery has noted, the refinery is large and complex, which means there are myriad ways that fumes, pollutants, and vapors from petroleum products can be released into the air and blown into nearby communities. At the class we learned how to quantify and describe odors in ways that may help the Air District and the refinery identify the sources of odors reaching the communities. Some of the odors presented included “gas oil” “crude oil” “diesel” “cracked naptha” and “DAF” (from the waste water facility). Sulfur was not among the odors available at the class, but one that commonly emanates from the refinery. If you missed the class, you can familiarize yourself with typical refinery odors by rolling your window down as you drive by the Conoco-Phillips refinery complex on I-80, which often has a fairly strong and distinctive odor.

One of the most important things we learned at the odor class is that it is important to call immediately when you smell odors, so that quick action can be taken. When you smell unusual and unpleasant odors, you should call the Bay Area Air Quality Management District Odor Hotline at: (800) 334-6367. Information about the odor will be taken, as well as your name, phone number, and address if you want to provide that information. If you are familiar with refinery odors, and think you are smelling such odors, state that in the call. By providing your name and phone number, an Air Quality Inspector will generally contact you by phone after investigating the odor; sometimes the inspectors have questions and sometimes they will report unusual activities that caused the odors.Providing your address can help investigators determine where the odors are likely to be coming from based on wind direction and where you are located.

If at least three community members call the Air District, an Air Quality Investigator will respond to the problem even on the weekends — so the more calls received, the more action will be taken. Importantly, your call is important as a record of how the Community is being impacted by odors. As representatives of the refinery noted at the odor class,  if they do not receive calls, they assume they are doing a good job controlling odors.

When you smell odors, you can also call the refinery directly at: (510) 245-4070. Calling the refinery alerts them to the possibility of a problem, which might be identified and corrected as a result of your call. The phone number is that of the shift supervisor who will either answer the phone or respond quickly to all messages. Conoco-Phillips indicates that they investigate each call.

Another helpful tool is the fenceline monitor website. This website gives the Community real-time information on levels of pollutants blowing across the fenceline monitor at the refinery, as well as wind speed and direction. The website is:

Editor’s note: Wind direction and speed are very important.  Look at the direction the wind is blowing.  If it is blowing toward Crockett, you can pretty much guarantee that odors in Crockett are coming from CP.  Recently we had very strong odors from Valero in Benicia.  The wind direction was key in determining the source.  Checking the Total Hydrocarbons on the North fenceline (for Crockett, South for Rodeo) and other chemicals might yield information.  Clicking on the number itself will generate a 24 hour graph, so you can see the recent history of that gas. (Added 8/3/15) The graph now includes wind direction estimates and speed.  If you see a spike, you may have made an important discovery.


Bay Area Air Quality Management District Odor Hotline at: (800) 334-6367

When you smell odors, you can also call the refinery directly at: (510) 245-4070

Hazardous Materials: (925) 646-2286

7 Responses to Refinery Odors & What You Can Do

  1. Dana Marrocco says:

    We would like to know why the shelter in place siren didn’t go off at the corner of Edwards and West this morning after your hazmat situation. We were caught completely off guard. Our pets were outside and we all have headaches and sore throats now. What use is a siren if it isn’t going to be used? No phone calls went out either. When can we expect this to be cleared up? Better communication to your local communities needs to be addressed. You failed miserably this time.

  2. Lisa Farrell says:

    I would like to know this too! We woke up and my throat hurt really bad and my lungs filled with gook. I am getting extremely dizzy. I am also very allergic to sulfur , I don’t know if has anything to do with why I am so uncomfortable right now or not, and find it really hard to breath today. I trusted the shelter in place warning before but we got nothing today! I sure hope this is not a dangerous vapor ,we have a small child an pets too!

  3. Lisa Farrell says:

    Its August 18th at 12:27 pm and its is smelling horrible and familiar from June 16th today!

  4. Tom Tereski says:

    Air smelled a a little worse than usual tonight, 09-01-12. I know the odor has a lot to do with the wind direction. In either case, the smell was bad enough that I needed to close all my windows and doors. My guess is the gas I was smelling was hydrogen sulfide. I sure hope it gets better soon.

  5. Lisa Farrell says:

    I got say they are doing 100% better! I smelled some sulfur odor this morning and they were right out here in a flash checking it out and it was nothing. I am so pleased to see them the way they were when I first moved here in Crockett- as far as making sure we are ok as a community!!

  6. Ernestine McColm says:

    I was told that the fenceline and monitoring system is placed on Edwards ST. I live on Clark St. and I know that the wind is usually more prevalent on Edwards then on Clark because of the Carquinez Straights being closer to Edwards St. and the wind blows down the straits making it more winding on Edwards St. I feel they should have put the monitoring device on Clark St. being that the wind on Edwards St. probably disperses the odors and doesn’t give a true reading.

  7. admin says:

    While there is a chemical detector on Edwards Street (I believe for hydrogen sulfide) mandated by the air district (BAAQMD) and maintained by the refinery, it is not part of the county mandated fenceline monitoring system. There are a few of those detectors around the outside of the refinery. The fenceline monitors are on refinery property and monitor many more chemicals. The “line of sight” detectors run along the north and south fencelines of the refinery. We don’t have access to the readings of BAAQMD SO2 monitors at this time. You can see the results of the fenceline monitors at . If you smell the refinery on Clark Street, please contact BAAQMD at 1-800-334-ODOR (6367).

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