ExxonMobil investigating explosion at Torrance refinery

An investigation is under way into the cause of an explosion and ensuing fire that took place at ExxonMobil Corp.’s 149,500-b/d Torrance, Calif., refinery on Feb. 18.

An investigation is under way into the cause of an explosion and ensuing fire that took place at ExxonMobil Corp.’s 149,500-b/d Torrance, Calif., refinery on Feb. 18.

The explosion, which occurred at 8:50 a.m. local time, was followed by a ground fire that was quickly extinguished by fire units from the City of Torrance Fire Department (TFD) and refinery emergency response crews, according to a series of notifications posted to official Facebook and Nixle accounts maintained by TFD and the Torrance Police Department.

The cause of the incident, which sent four contract workers to an area hospital for evaluation, all of whom have since been released, is now under investigation, ExxonMobil told OGJ via e-mail.

“We are cooperating fully with the appropriate agencies to assess the impact and determine the cause of the incident,” said Gesuina Paras, ExxonMobil’s public and government affairs advisor at Torrance.

Immediate impacts to operations at the refinery, however, remain unclear.

“The refinery’s flare system is operating as designed and will continue to safely burn hydrocarbon gases while we continue to stabilize refinery operations,” Paras said, adding that non-impacted units at the plant continue to operate.

Posts made to various social media feeds by eyewitnesses, local news agencies, and contract and union laborers associated with the refinery give disparate accounts of which installations have been directly affected by the explosion, but official confirmation from either ExxonMobil or government agencies involved in the investigation has yet to emerge.

When asked by OGJ for clarification on which of the refinery’s units have been impacted by the incident, ExxonMobil declined to identify either those involved in the blast or those that remain in operation.

Air-monitoring activities conducted by ExxonMobil and TFD at the refinery fence line and surrounding community show no signs of harmful emissions from the plant, but the company has established a claims hotline for area residents that may have been impacted by the incident.

With a gasoline production capacity of 1.8 billion gal/year, the Torrance refinery accounts for about 10% of all gasoline sold in California and supplies fuel to markets in Arizona and Nevada, according to the company’s web site.

Contact Robert Brelsford @rbrelsford@ogjonline.com.

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