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Refinery could be out of action for weeks, costing Valero millions

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THE FALLOUT from Friday’s disruption to the national electricity supply across many parts of the UK will be serious for Pembrokeshire’s oil refinery.

Pembroke Refinery – owned by Valero – can refine up to 220,000 barrels of oil per day.

Along with 900,000 other electricity users in the UK, it suffered a complete power failure on August 9.

A source close to the plant told The Herald that screens in the control room went blank and refinery operators were forced to shut down manually.

During the incident there were large flare offs at the site and black smoke could be seen from the stacks.

There was a strong smell of oil in the air reported by nearby residents.

Despite Valero’s official spokesperson saying on Friday that the company did not comment on operational matters, another source told this newspaper that the power outage had knocked the fluid catalytic cracker offline, and that it would likely take a number of weeks for the refinery to get back to normal operations.

Our source said: “This is going to cost Valero millions of pounds. Everyone is very tight lipped at the present time, but I expect that there will be a big meeting on Monday – I understand that there are colleagues flying in from Texas.

“With the refinery out of action some ships may be forced to leave Milford Haven without any cargo.”

Our source told us: “I know that there is at least one ship waiting, on berth three I think, to load up with alkylate, but with the cracker down this won’t be happening.”

In 2017 a power outage and resulting smoke at a Valero Energy Corp refinery forced residents to remain indoors for several hours in Benicia, California. According to local news media reports at the time, black smoke from the refinery, also caused traffic to back up on Interstate 680 and forced evacuations from the industrial park where the plant is located. Orders to remain indoors and evacuate the industrial park had been lifted by noon. Two people were treated for respiratory distress.

Electrical disruptions and power failures at refineries often cause immense damage in terms of lost production, excessive repair costs, environmental impact and safety concerns. Electrical power is the lifeblood of the refinery and plant operation. An individual incident can run losses into millions of dollars a day. In 2012, the Phillips 66 refinery in New Jersey was down for 23 days. They estimated the lost revenue was over $650 million US Dollars.
The Government says it plans to launch an investigation into the major power cut. The blackout also brought travel chaos to the rail network and affected the power supply to Newcastle Airport and Ipswich Hospital.

Power had to be restored to more than 900,000 customers after what National Grid Electricity System Operator said was the almost simultaneous loss of two large generators.

Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said Friday’s power outage had caused “enormous disruption”.
She added: “National Grid must urgently review and report to Ofgem.
“I will also be commissioning the Government’s Energy Emergencies Executive Committee to consider the incident.”

The committee will look at whether National Grid, which manages the electricity supply system, stuck to its processes and procedures and if these were fit-for-purpose.

It will also examine if there were technical performance issues in the country’s power system, the efficiency of communications around the incident and how power demand was restored.

National Grid said it would seek to “understand the lessons learned” from the incident, while energy regulator Ofgem called for an “urgent detailed report” on what went wrong.
Duncan Burt, operations director at National Grid, said the power cut was an “incredibly rare event”, but back-up systems had “worked well” in response.

He explained that automatic processes triggered by the loss of the two generators had temporarily disconnected electrical demand across the country to “help keep the rest of the system safe”.

Valero have been contacted for a further comment.

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First Minister eases COVID restrictions

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NEW rules have come into force today (Monday Aug 3) to make it easier for family and friends to meet outdoors, First Minister Mark Drakeford announced on Friday 31 July as he set out further changes to the coronavirus regulations in Wales.

The latest package of changes follow the sixth review of the coronavirus regulations and focus on enabling friends and family to meet each other outdoors and enabling more businesses to open indoors.

The First Minster has explained that consideration has been given to extend the number of people able to meet indoors, however this will depend on people continuing to follow the rules and levels of the virus in Wales.

And has urged people to follow the new rules and guidance to help keep Wales safe and control the spread of coronavirus in the face of worrying trends across Europe.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

“We are becoming accustomed to living with coronavirus but we shouldn’t forget the danger it poses. This is a deadly disease and the risk to our health has not gone away – as we can see in parts of Europe where there have been new outbreaks and new measures introduced to control its spread.

“The rates of the virus in Wales remain low, allowing us to relax the restrictions further over the next few weeks but we can only do this if everyone continues to take steps to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“Businesses are required to take all reasonable measures to minimise the risk of spreading the virus on their premises. They have worked really hard to put in place measures to protect staff and customers. And we all need to do our bit too by complying with these and to keep our distance whenever we leave home and meet others.

“To the small minority who aren’t following the rules – we will take action. We’re working with our enforcement authorities here in Wales to ensure they have the powers and resources they need. I want to make sure all the measures developed to keep us safe are complied with.”

A series of changes will be made to the coronavirus regulations over the next three weeks:

From 3 August:

The restrictions preventing more than two households or extended households meeting outdoors will be changed to allow up to 30 people to meet outdoors. Physical distancing must be maintained at all times.
Pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes will be able to re-open indoors. As will indoor bowling alleys, auction houses and bingo halls.

Licenced wedding venues will be able to re-open to provide wedding ceremonies. However, indoor receptions will not be able to take place for the time being – they will be considered as part of the changes for August 15.

The guidance will be updated to relax the position on children under 11 having to maintain a 2m distance from each other or from adults. This reflects the scientific evidence, which shows the risk of transmission is lower among this age group. However, it is very important older children and young adults continue to follow social distancing and the other measures to keep them safe.
If conditions remain favourable, from 10 August:

Swimming pools, indoor fitness studios, gyms, spas and indoor leisure centres will be able to re-open.
Children’s indoor play areas will be able to open.

The Welsh Government is also exploring whether changes can be made to the rules to enable people to meet indoors with other people who aren’t part of their household or extended household from August 15.

The First Minister added:

“It is thanks to the hard efforts of everyone in Wales that we have been able to control the spread of coronavirus and relax the restrictions. We can only continue to do this if everyone carries on this hard work.

“If we stop now, there is a real risk we will see new outbreaks of coronavirus and we may have to reverse some of these restrictions to control its spread again.

“We are facing the likelihood of a resurgence of the virus over the autumn and winter –this will not be over by Christmas. We all have an ongoing responsibility to keep Wales safe. This means maintaining social distancing, washing our hands often and thinking carefully about where we go, what we’re doing and why.”

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Temporary measures create extra space around the county

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FURTHER measures to aid social distancing are being considered by Pembrokeshire County Council following the successful implementation of several schemes.

Through engagement with local communities and funding from the Welsh Government for the re-allocation of road space, the Council has created extra space to support social distancing measures and the unlocking of businesses.

The measures also look to promote active travel and other forms of sustainable travel.

Over recent weeks schemes have been focussed on the centres of Tenby, Saundersfoot and St Davids as well as some measures in Narberth and Haverfordwest.

In Saundersfoot parking bays have been suspended and temporary barriers have been put in place to extend the width of the footway at Cambrian Terrace and The Strand.

A new one-way system has also been introduced in the centre of St Davids. This has allowed the carriageway width to be reduced and a new pedestrian footway created linking Oriel-y-Parc to Cross Square.

In addition the Authority has also partially pedestrianised Cross Square which has created a pedestrian friendly environment and an area that can be utilised for other types of activities including market stalls.

In Narberth the Council has introduced measures to support social distancing where footway widths do not lend themselves to two way pedestrian flow. Again parking has been suspended and temporary barriers installed to allow part of the highway to be utilised by pedestrians. Further measures are currently being considered at other locations.

In Tenby for the annual pedestrianisation scheme, the Council has looked to support the unlocking of businesses by providing guidance and advice on various matters including Café Culture and social distancing.

Our Streetcare team has played a pivotal role in meeting various businesses including those from the hospitality sector, and has looked at individual properties to see what measures can be implemented.

In addition we have provided extensive information signage at all of the above locations highlighting the need to social distance.

All measures have involved community engagement from the start which has meant that we have been able to develop the schemes with the support of those impacted.

The situation across Pembrokeshire is currently being reviewed with regards to whether further measures are needed.

Councillor Phil Baker, Cabinet Member for Infrastructure, Licensing and Major Events, said: “By working closely with our communities we have been able to determine what needs to be done and where, to ensure we can continue to unlock safely.

“The extra space provided and the safe space for pedestrians is part of our plans to work together and adapt the way we live in response to Covid-19.

“These schemes will support our businesses, residents and visitors and we will implement further schemes where it is deemed necessary.”

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Police dispersed large group of teenagers and seized alcohol in Broad Haven

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POLICE have been out in force in Broad Haven dealing with groups of teenagers gathering and drinking in Broad Haven.

It is currently illegal for more than two households to meet together outdoors due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Friday night (Jul 31) operation resulted in an amount of alcohol being seized.

A police spokesperson told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “Officers are currently in Broad Haven dispersing a large group of teenagers who have gathered. Alcohol has been seized and they have been directed to leave the area.

“If a parent has a child currently in Broad Haven could you please contact them and arrange to collect them.”

Police are urging youngsters to respect local communities by not gathering in large groups this weekend

Officers and their partner agencies are concerned about reports there may be gatherings of youngsters planned for this weekend in Pembrokeshire.

Police are working closely with partners in the county this weekend, and will act quickly to disperse any such gatherings.

Police are urging youngsters to act responsibly, and respect our local communities and the sacrifices we’ve all made over the past few months to have some more freedom now.

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