Flame bursts over Torrance refinery, prompting hours-long road closure

The scene in February 2015 when Torrance police closed off Del Amo Boulevard near the then-Exxon Mobile Refinery after an explosion that resulted in the plant shutting for months.
(Christina House / For The Times)

A large flame of burning gas erupted over a refinery in Torrance on Sunday, prompting authorities to close a stretch of Del Amo Boulevard for about two hours.

Torrance firefighters were dispatched to the former Exxon Mobil refinery at 7:12 a.m., Captain Bob Millea said. A power outage in the northern part of the city had caused issues for some of the units at the plant, Millea said, prompting what he called an “unplanned flaring event.”

To stabilize its systems, the plant sent hydrocarbon products to the flare, causing a large flame to burst over the plant’s metal smoke stacks — similar to the way a giant lighter might function, Millea said.


Fire officials shut down Del Amo Boulevard between Maple Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard in both directions until systems were declared stable at about 9:20 a.m., Millea said.

The refinery, which was sold this summer to PBF Energy, has experienced some notable problems in the recent past. In June, three workers were injured at the refinery when a 300-ton crane collapsed. Near the same time, a breakdown in some units triggered a flaring event, a company spokesman said at the time.

In February 2015, an explosion injured four workers and destroyed the plant’s pollution-control system, shutting the refinery for months. Exxon Mobil was fined $566,600 in connection with the explosion.

Sunday’s incident, however, posed no safety risk to the public, Millea said.

“If we thought there was a danger to the public, we would not have left the scene,” he said later Saturday morning. “Everything is back to normal.”

Twitter: @ByMattStevens