HazMat Leak at Troubled SoCal Refinery


TORRANCE, CA – A leak of potentially hazardous chemicals and a large column of smoke were released from ExxonMobil’s Torrance refinery Friday evening, but plant officials did not disclose precisely what was emitted.

City, police and fire officials confirmed the leak came from an 8-inch pipeline in the refinery’s crude unit but did not elaborate. A statement from ExxonMobil said the release was “primarily composed of steam” and that state regulators were notified of the release.

The leak was reported at 6:10 p.m. and “stabilized” by 7:15 p.m. An “all-clear” notice from the refinery was issued at 7:31 p.m.

According to police and fire scanner reports from the scene, firefighters sprayed water on the leaking unit and were unable to detect any hazardous chemicals in air quality tests at the site.

The troubled refinery, which has been operating at less than 20 percent capacity in the aftermath of a serious explosion in February, has faced a series of problems this year.

Numerous safety violations have been issued and the community and federal regulators have repeatedly called for more transparency.

On Sept. 6, a potentially deadly release of modified hydrofluoric acid was emitted from the refinery. Though it was a small leak, it was extremely dangerous because a single drop of the chemical can cause deep burns.

Cal/OSHA has since fined the company $566,000 for 19 workplace health and safety violations. Severe oversights were identified in Cal/OSHA’s investigation of the explosion because the refinery did not properly maintain its equipment.

Last month, ExxonMobil confirmed that it had committed to selling the 750-acre refinery to PBF Energy for $537.5 million.

The sale is contingent upon the plant being completely repaired before it closes escrow.