How Safe Is the Torrance Refinery?

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) recently issued another notice about an unplanned flaring event at the Torrance Refinery, containing the following SCAQMD Link. According to the website:

A gas flare, also known as a flare stack, is a gas combustion device used in a variety of industrial plants. In petroleum refineries, flares are used as safety devices to prevent over pressure of equipment via planned and unplanned flaring.”

  • Planned Event: Used for scheduled maintenance, plant startup/shutdown, or other activities where the refinery can reasonably anticipate the need to dispose of excess combustible gas.
  • Unplanned Event: Used for emergencies caused by equipment failure, power outage, or other unanticipated event which requires the refinery to dispose of the gases in order to prevent harm to workers, the community, or to the environment.

The link also led to a list of all the flaring events at the Torrance Refinery, and showed that, so far this year, there have been 10 Planned and 23 Unplanned events. That means that there are about 2 emergencies per month at this refinery! And another planned event has just been announced.

With a safety record like this, how can we feel safe living so near, when they use massive quantities of the deadly hydrogen fluoride (HF)? There were 5 small HF releases between 2017 and 2019. The AQMD has not revealed how many HF releases have occur in the last 3 years. Why not?