Transformer failure causes another ‘unplanned flaring’ at Torrance refinery

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)

Another large flame of burning gas burst over a refinery in Torrance on Monday morning, just hours after authorities resolved a similar unplanned flaring incident.

This time, the flaring at the former Exxon Mobil refinery was caused by an offsite transformer failure, briefly prompting the closure of Del Amo Boulevard between Maple Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard, according to the Torrance Police Department. Authorities don’t know how long the flaring will continue at the refinery, which was sold this summer to PBF Energy.

Residents reported hearing loud boom sounds just after 3:30 a.m., and there were intermittent power outages.


The latest flaring event comes hours after an electrical issue prompted a similar flame at 7:12 a.m. Sunday at the refinery. The flame rupture is caused when the plant sends hydrocarbon products to the flare to stabilize its systems. The action triggers a large flame over the plant’s metal smoke stacks.

Sunday’s event also caused power outages in the northern part of the city.

In July, Torrance fire officials reported a flaring event due to a breakdown of some units.

A month before that unplanned event, three workers were injured at the refinery when a 300-ton crane collapsed as it moved debris.

In February 2015, a blast injured four contractors and destroyed the plant’s pollution-control system, shutting down a portion of the refinery for months. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health issued 19 citations to Exxon Mobil, which was fined $566,600.

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