SMALL BLAZE AT TORRANCE REFINERY RAISES CONCERNS AMONG RESIDENTS

A fire broke out at the Torrance refinery on Tuesday afternoon, according to Torrance Fire Capt. Robert Millea. This is the same plant where there was an explosion in February 2015.

There was no hazardous waste involved, but there was a leak in a line, according to the city of Torrance. The line was isolated with the goal of burning off “residual product,” according to an alert from the city, but no flaring was required at this time.

The Torrance Fire Department responded to a call from the plant at 4:19 p.m., with the fire being extinguished at approximately 4:45 p.m., according to Millea.

All personnel are safe and accounted for, according to Millea. Employees were injured, according to an alert from the city, but none of them needed to be transported to medical facilities. There was no impact in the surrounding area.

There were 24 Fire Department personnel working with the refinery, according to Millea. The Torrance Police Department also responded, according to the city of Torrance.

PBF Energy spokeswoman Betsy Brien said no one was injured and the refinery’s production continues to meet “our commercial obligations in fuel markets,” indicating that gas prices won’t climb as a result. The plant supplies about 10 percent of the state’s gasoline.

A Feb. 18, 2015, explosion at the refinery, which was then owned by ExxonMobil, rocked the community when an 80,000-pound piece of equipment went flying and crashed within feet of a vessel containing toxic modified hydrofluoric acid.

The damage caused the refinery to shut down for 15 months, resulting in higher gas prices for consumers.

Since then, several groups of community activists have pushed for the refinery to stop using modified hydrofluoric acid, which can form deadly clouds of hard-to-contain toxic gas if released.

“The refinery holds 250,000 pounds of modified hydrofluoric acid. The Department of Homeland Security calls it a chemical of interest for terrorist use in amounts over 1,000 pounds,” Hayati said. “This is a risk too great.”

PBF Energy took over the site from ExxonMobil in July, shortly after the company restarted the plant following the 2015 explosion. Two weeks later, PBF temporarily shut down following a software update that led to a series of equipment failures.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District, Torrance Fire Department, California Division of Occupational Safety and Health and refinery officials continued to investigate Tuesday’s fire and any potential environmental impacts.

The AQMD cracked down on the plant in October for having excessive flaring resulting from power outages and other sudden operational shutdowns. Flares are used to minimize environmental damage caused by the release of hazardous waste chemicals into the air, but the agency said the plant used emergency flares too many times from July through October, and issued several violations demanding corrective actions.

“The bottom line is that we’re seeking a solution to reduce and minimize the flaring that has resulted from the refinery’s power outages because there have been several incidents,” said AQMD spokesman Sam Atwood. “In the end, what we’re seeking is the (administrative law) hearing board to issue an order that will set out specific conditions with the aim of reducing flaring.”

The AQMD also is investigating whether Tuesday’s fire caused any violations of air quality regulations.

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