On July 7, 2017, the SCAQMD Governing Board approved contracts with the City of Torrance and Sonoma Technology, Inc. for the $2.77 million ExxonMobil Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) fund. The projects will enhance the monitoring and alert system at the Torrance (formerly ExxonMobil) refinery to provide warnings and updates to Torrance residents during refinery flaring and other emergencies. For more information, click here .
Torrance Refining Company, LLC is one of six large refineries in the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s jurisdiction. It is subject to numerous SCAQMD rules and regulations pertaining to refining operations and equipment. The facility is located at 3700 W. 190th St. in Torrance and covers 750 acres. It refines gasoline, diesel fuel, aviation fuels, liquefied petroleum gases, coke and sulfur.
In February 2015, a large explosion in an air pollution control device ejected heavy metal parts, narrowly missing a unit that contains highly toxic modified hydrofluoric acid. As a result of air pollution violations during the explosion and subsequent restart of the refinery, then-owner ExxonMobil paid a $5.5 million penalty to SCAQMD, of which $2.77 million has been committed to fund community benefit projects. In 2016, SCAQMD released an RFP and hosted a community meeting on the use of the settlement monies for projects that provide public health and quality of life improvements.
PBF Energy, based in Parsippany, N.J., purchased the refinery and took over operation of the facility on July 1, 2016. In 2016, the refinery experienced several power cuts and as a result conducted unplanned flaring.
In February 2017, PBF agreed to an administrative order by the independent SCAQMD Hearing Board requiring the facility to improve power reliability and reduce air pollution from power-related flaring incidents. The Hearing Board will maintain jurisdiction over the order until all its requirements are completed. While the refinery must meet specific milestones and deadlines under the order, the overall effort will take several years to complete.
As a result of the series of incidents at the refinery, SCAQMD’s Refinery Committee held an investigative hearing in April 2017 to gather information about refinery safety and operations from experts and regulators as well as feedback from community groups and residents.
Flaring is a safety measure used at refineries to prevent explosions or accidents that could result from gases building up excess pressure. When flared, the combusted gas typically causes large flames, and can result in black smoke when power losses impact steam generation.