2015 Exxon refinery explosion could have been ‘catastrophic,’ officials say


Federal investigators said a failure to follow safety guidelines was partly to blame for the 2015 ExxonMobil oil refinery explosion in Torrance.

Congressman Ted Lieu said its time for ExxonMobil and the refinery to change their practices.

Lieu and investigators met with residents Wednesday night to discuss the ongoing investigation into the February explosion at the plant, which injured two people and could have put thousands of residents at risk.

According to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, the explosion could have been avoided and the biggest cause for concern is the modified hydrofluoric acid, or MHF, the plant uses
Officials said the blast launched an 80,000 pound piece of equipment within feet of a unit housing the highly volatile and toxic substance.

“It was a serious near miss and we believe had the tank ruptured, the results could have been more serious than they were,” said Vanessa Sutherland with the chemical board.

But Exxon disputes the findings and said it has stringent safety rules in place. Many workers who attended the meeting said they feel safe at the plant.

California workplace regulators fined ExxonMobil more than half a million dollars for health and safety violations related to the blast.

Many residents in the area said they want the plant to stop using the dangerous chemical.

“It’s only one of two refineries that continue to use it in California, and there are alternatives. I don’t think the residents want to shut the refinery down,” resident John Bailey said.

Lieu said he is currently working on legislation to phase out the use of hydrofluoric acid because of the dangers it poses.

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