During the early morning hours of February 18, 2015, an explosion rocked the small beachfront community of Torrance, California, injuring four workers and destroying some parts of the Exxon Mobil oil refinery plant. The blast occurred at approximately 8:50 a.m. and generated equivalent force to a 1.4-magnitude earthquake in the area. Investigators believe that the explosion occurred in an electrostatic precipitator unit that was shut down temporarily for maintenance. This latest incident joins an increasingly long list of accidents, fires and explosions in the U.S. oil industry. For Texas residents and workers who have been injured in these types of incidents, working with a Houston refinery explosion lawyer can provide added support in managing the recovery process and obtaining fair compensation for injuries and losses. Prior Problems in Torrance The Exxon Mobil oil refinery in Torrance has experienced issues in the past as well:
- In 1979, a young woman was killed after fumes from the Torrance plant created a hazardous vapor cloud that first caused her vehicle to stall and then ignited when she attempted to restart it. The resulting fire took two days to bring under control. Two refinery workers also lost their lives in the accident.
- A refinery unit exploded in November 1987 and released approximately 100 pounds of hydrofluoric acid; no injuries were reported as a result of this accident.
- A July 1988 explosion at the facility claimed the life of one worker and injured nine more.
- In 1994, 28 people were injured in an explosion at the Torrance Exxon Mobil refinery.
- An April 2013 explosion at the Exxon Mobil refinery in Beaumont, Texas, injured 12 workers during routine maintenance on a heat exchanger unit.
The facility has been the target of numerous investigations by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and was sued by the Torrance City Council in 1989 in an attempt to take over regulatory responsibility for what the city referred to as a “public nuisance.” The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, often referred to as Cal-OSHA, is currently conducting an investigation into the cause of the accident and has shut down part of the Torrance Mobil operation pending the results of their on-site investigations. Explosion Expected to Boost Gas Prices The Torrance facility is responsible for processing more than eight percent of the oil refined in the state of California:
- Torrance Exxon Mobil processes 155,000 barrels of crude oil daily.
- That adds up to roughly 1.8 billion gallons of gasoline every year.
- The facility employs more than 1,000 workers on its 750-acre industrial campus.
It is not yet clear to what degree the damage caused by this chemical plant explosion will impact operations and production at the Torrance Exxon Mobil plant. Some analysts are projecting increased prices at the pump of as much as 15 cents a gallon; this price hike, however, is expected to remain localized to the Southern California area. Luckily, no loss of life has yet been reported in association with the Torrance explosion. For families closer to home who have experienced losses or injuries due to accidents in the Texas oil industry, however, working with a qualified refinery explosion lawyer to hold companies like Exxon Mobil and BP accountable for lax safety practices and negligence in protecting workers can bring real financial pressure to bear on these large-scale corporations. Attorneys with experience in these types of cases can negotiate more effectively with oil company representatives to obtain the most advantageous settlements for their clients. This can not only ensure greater financial stability for those injured in oil industry accidents but can also serve as a motivating factor for oil companies in making safety a priority throughout their operations.