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California

Torrance refinery unit to restart after major explosion; start-up to temporarily increase emissions

Refinery explosion

Damage caused by an explosion at the Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrance is seen on Feb. 18, 2015.

(Nick Ut / Associated Press)

A portion of the Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrance is scheduled to reopen Monday night, more than a year after a large explosion at the facility injured four workers and damaged equipment.

The refinery is set to restart operations in the fluid catalytic cracker unit between 7 p.m. Monday and 7 a.m. Tuesday. Torrance city officials said they expect that process will temporarily increase emissions, but that they are not expected to exceed state and national air quality standards.

“It is anticipated that the restart will result in higher particulate matter for about six hours,” the city said in statement to residents.

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The South Coast Air Quality Management District said the refinery will need to shut down a pollution control device as a safety precaution, which could result in up to 600 pounds of particulate emissions.

The district said it analyzed the short-term excess of emissions and didn’t expect it to have negative effect on residents.

Before restarting production operations, the refinery was required to notify 11,000 homes in the surrounding area and place door hangers on homes within about a mile of the refinery, according to the district. The refinery had planned to restart the unit Saturday, but the operation was delayed.

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“We want to ensure that residents have adequate and proper notice of the rescheduled refinery restart,” said Wayne Nastri, the district’s acting executive officer. “Meanwhile, we will be monitoring air quality before, during and after the start-up to assess any potential air pollution impacts in the community.”

Investigators concluded that the Feb. 18, 2015, explosion was the result of a hydrocarbon release from the fluid catalytic cracker unit into the electrostatic precipitator — a filtration device that removes fine particulates and controls air pollution. The hydrocarbon release caused the electrostatic precipitator to explode.

Eight workers had to be decontaminated, and four suffered minor injuries and were sent to hospitals.

After the blast, California Division of Occupational Safety and Health ordered Exxon Mobil to shut down the unit until it could demonstrate safe operation.

In August, Cal/OSHA issued 19 citations, most of which were classified as serious, for workplace safety and health violations at the refinery. Exxon Mobil was fined $566,600 in penalties in connection with the explosion.

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