Fire Hits California Refinery Targeted by Protest

February 18, 2017, 8:23 PM UTC
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Workers enter Gate 7 as smokes rises from a damaged areas after an explosion and fire at the Exxon Mobil Corp. Torrance refinery in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015. An explosion this morning at the Exxon Mobil Corp. refinery is creating concerns that limited oil refining capacity in California could raise fuel prices. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bloomberg Bloomberg via Getty Images

A fire broke out after an explosion on Saturday at a California oil refinery that local residents had planned to protest against later in the day due to concerns over pollution and past accidents.

Firefighters in the city of Torrance, near Los Angeles, extinguished the blaze and there were no injuries, according to the plant owner and local police.

The 151,300 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery is operated by PBF Energy and supplies around 10% of California’s gasoline. Two years ago, when the refinery was owned by Exxon Mobil Corp, a major blast halted gasoline production for more than a year.

A group of local residents organized as “South Bay Flare” had planned a march at the refinery on Saturday morning to mark the anniversary of that earlier mishap, according to the group’s Facebook page.

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The 2015 explosion was found to have nearly released hydrofluoric acid into the atmosphere.

Last week, six contract workers and one employee at Phillips 66’s Ferndale, Washington, refinery were hospitalized after a hydrofluoric acid leak at the facility. The workers were exposed while the 101,000 bpd refinery had units shut down for an overhaul.

PBF said on Saturday that one unit at the Torrance refinery was disrupted by the predawn explosion. The company told state regulators that it was forced to flare fuel on an emergency basis after the blast.

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The Torrance refinery had at least two outages in 2016 after a power outage at a local utility knocked the facility offline. In October, PBF received a violation notice from the California’s air regulator for excessive flaring following one of the outages.

The refinery receives crude oil via pipeline and ocean deliveries from the nearby port of Long Beach, according to the refinery website.

PBF Energy bought the Torrance facility from Exxon Mobil Corp in September 2015.