CSB to Meet in Torrance, CA to Discuss Explosion at ExxonMobil Refinery

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) will convene a public meeting on Wednesday, January 13, 2016, in Torrance, California, outside Los Angeles, at the Torrance City Hall Council Chamber from 5 to 10 p.m. PST to discuss the agency’s investigation of the incident at the ExxonMobil Refinery on February 18, 2015.

Two workers were injured when an explosion occurred in the refinery’s electrostatic precipitator, or ESP, a piece of equipment used at the refinery to control air pollution. A series of events led to the presence of hydrocarbons inside the ESP, where they were never expected, resulting in a blast that dispersed debris into the surrounding community.

Since the February explosion, there have been several other incidents at the refinery, about which CSB investigators have collected data to assist their investigation.

At the meeting, the Board will hear a presentation from the investigative staff on their preliminary findings, areas of future investigation, and the scope of the final report into the accident.The board will also hear comments from the community.

Although the investigation into the explosion at ExxonMobil is ongoing, investigators have already identified multiple process safety management, or PSM, deficiencies that helped contribute to the accident. Many of those failures are similar to findings detailed in the CSB’s investigation and reports on the August 6, 2012, fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, California, which endangered 19 workers and sent more than 15,000 residents to the hospital for medical attention.

In its final regulatory report into that accident the CSB proposed recommendations for substantial changes to the way refineries are regulated in California.

The state of California has since worked to revise and strengthen its PSM requirements for refineries and has published a proposed rule. As currently written, the draft PSM regulations address numerous issues raised in the CSB’s Chevron report, such as a risk-reduction goal of “the greatest extent feasible” for process hazard analyses and requirements for performing damage mechanism reviews and hierarchy of controls analysis.