A community tour of Chevron’s Richmond refinery full of eye-popping sights

For a second, it was hard to believe that we were just a few hundred feet from where nearly a quarter of a million barrels of oil are refined daily. With an army of caterers flipping burgers, and dozens of Chevron employees donning blue baseball shirts with “Richmond Proud” emblazoned across their chests in a major-league typeface, the tour seemed more Wrigley Field than oil field.

Chevron held its annual community tour day on Saturday, guiding more than 400 attendees through the 2,900-acre refinery on tour buses. Chevron employees ran informational booths and chatted with guests over a barbecue reception in the parking lot.

While the reception had the vibe of a Sunday picnic, the 45-minute bus tour and lunch focused on the hot-button issue facing the plant and the city itself — the refinery modernization project.

Priced at $1 billion, not only does the project promise safer, updated infrastructure for distilling crude and producing various fuels, but also calls for more green space, community interaction, jobs, and even internet access for fenceline neighborhoods. This is still contingent on a court process between Chevron and its opponents coming to an end.

In any case, Chevron employees are pumped about the project. Bharat Chavda, an engineer with experience in both South Africa and Richmond, was one of the several employees who expressed excitement about the pending upgrades.

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