Frequently Asked Questions

The following questions are often asked by our neighbours. If you have any questions that aren't addressed here, please contact our Community Contact Line at +1 604.257.4040. This line is staffed on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

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Do you monitor noise at the refinery? Why does it sometimes seem like it gets noisier at night?

We have a noise monitor near the fence line between us and our neighbours. 

The refinery does not run differently at night; if it sounds louder in the evening it is likely because there is less background noise. 

What does the Chevron Burnaby Refinery do to protect the environment?

We have installed low NOx burners on all our furnaces and most of our boilers. These minimize the amount of NOx created from burning fuel gas. 

The Sulphur Plant has been upgraded since the first one was installed in the 1970's. The current plant recovers 99.5% of the Sulphur fed to it. 

The LDAR (lead detection and repair) program surveys thousands of valves and pipe connections every year to catch small leaks. 

We have double seals on all floating roof tanks. 

How is the refinery regulated?


The Chevron Burnaby Refinery is subject to federal, provincial and municipal laws with regard to the operation of the refinery.  This includes matters related to the environment as well as workplace health and safety.  In addition, Chevron has a number of provincial and municipal permits that allow for the operation of the refinery, including a number of environmental permits. 

Why do I sometimes see a flame coming from a column at the refinery?

What you're seeing is the refinery flare system. A flare is a pressure safety relief device used throughout the petroleum industry. It is used to ensure that equipment does not exceed the limits set for maintaining the safety and integrity of a process unit. 

Occasionally as part of the refinery process, more fuel gas (e.g. propane, butane) is produced than needed by the plant. The flare's function is to eliminate this excess process gas by burning it off rather than venting to the atmosphere. A pilot light at the top of the flare burns all the time (like some home furnaces), so the flare is ready when needed. The network of piping connecting the refinery processes to the flare must also have small gas surges to ensure air does not back down the flare and create a flammable atmosphere. The purged gas results in a small continuous flame at the flare. 

Most flares are elevated because of the heat involved in the process. By operating flares high above the ground, the potential for igniting other equipment and endangering personnel is eliminated. 

Steam is an important component of the flare process. It is used as a coolant and promotes a clean-burning flame. Sometimes the steam makes a hissing noise when it is introduced into the flare. That just means it's doing its job to cool the system and significantly reduce smoke. There are infrequent instances when the refinery experiences a process interruption, such as a power outage or earthquake. For safety reasons, equipment automatically shuts down when this happens. 

The excess process gas is then consumed in the flare system. In addition, starting up plants after maintenance work (turnarounds) can increase flare activity.

Flare systems are specifically designed to handle and eliminate excess heat and fuel gas. Be assured that flaring is a controlled operation, which provides the safest and most environmentally effective method to burn off excess process gasses and to reduce hydrocarbon emissions. 

What is that white smoke I see coming from the Refinery?

What you see is water vapour formed by the water that is being cooled from the cooling tower. Cooling towers use water to cool down products manufactured in the refining process. 

Sometimes I notice a yellow substance on my windows/car/patio furniture. Is it from the refinery?

At certain times of the year we receive calls from neighbours regarding abnormal amounts of yellow particles on their cars and around the house. This usually means pollen season and those particles have blown in from neighbourhood trees and plants. 

If you would like to know which plant is likely responsible for the deposits, check out the pollen forecast online at It will tell you the current source of pollen and its estimated concentration around the Lower Mainland.

What should I do if I experience an unusual odour or noise coming from the Refinery?

Call the Chevron Community Contact Line at +1 604.257.4040. This line is staffed on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. 

Your call will be directed to the most appropriate person who can respond quickly. In the event of an emergency or significant maintenance work underway that may contribute to unusual operating conditions, information and regular updates for the public are made available. 

If you are calling after hours or on a weekend, your call will be forwarded to our on-duty shift supervisors. If you would like to report an odour or if you notice anything that you think is unusual, please let us know. Your calls are very important to us and we will respond as quickly as possible.