City News Service

Leak at ExxonMobil Refinery Prompts Shelter-In-Place Warning

A leak in an 8-inch line at the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance Friday evening prompted a warning for residents to shelter in place and close their windows.

The leak occurred about 6:10 p.m. in the refinery's crude unit, according to Torrance police.

"The resulting leak resulted in a large column of smoke leaving the refinery and extending past Western Avenue," according to a police statement.

Sirens were activated to alert residents to shelter in place and close their windows, police said.

The leak was stabilized and contained and the shelter in place advisory was lifted, police reported at 7:13 p.m. No injuries were reported.

An ExxonMobil spokesman said the leaked substance was "mostly steam."

"In an abundance of caution, the refinery activated the Crenshaw Boulevard barriers and the Torrance Fire Department sounded the community warning sirens to alert the public to shelter in place," ExxonMobil spokesman Todd Spitler said. "The 'all clear' chimes were sounded minutes later."

Refinery officials notified the state Office of Emergency Management Services and the South Coast Air Quality Management District about 6:30 p.m., Spitler said.

"Air monitoring has been conducted in the community and there is no danger to public health," he said. "We apologize for any inconvenience that this incident may have caused."

An explosion at the refinery on Feb. 18 rained a substance on nearby neighborhoods and residents were told they were in no danger from what was called a catalyst used in the refining process.

Four workers were injured in the blast, which led state regulators to issue 19 citations against ExxonMobil and propose penalties totaling $566,600. Cal/OSHA officials said a 2007 safety review found problems with flammable vapor in the plant's electrostatic precipitator, but no corrective actions were taken.

Regulators noted that the plant's fluid catalytic cracker had not been working properly for as long as nine years prior to the blast. A preliminary report by the South Coast Air Quality Management District determined the blast was caused by over-pressurization in the electrostatic precipitator -- an air-pollution-control system. An agreement to sell the refinery to New Jersey-based oil refining company PBF Energy was announced last month.

The $527.5 million deal expected to close in the second quarter of 2016.

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