An explosion at an ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance, California caused a gas leak and small fire at the gasoline processing unit shortly before 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday. Four workers were injured and the explosion shattered the windows of surrounding buildings.
The California Department of Industrial Relations has opened an investigation into the explosion to determine the cause of the blast. Until then, ExxonMobil is not allowed to operate the refinery’s fluid catalytic cracking unit. According to Oil Price Information Service, a trade publication, an unidentified source reports that the refinery’s electrostatic participator exploded as workers were doing maintenance on the fluid catalytic cracking unit next to it.
A small ground fire was ignited after the explosion, but was quickly extinguished by firefighters. A gasoline leak also prompted the refinery to activate the flare towers in order to burn off fuel. The towers shot flames hundreds of feet into the air while creating extremely black smoke. The explosion caused the ground to shake so hard that a nearby seismometer at Caltech registered the explosion as a 1.7-magnitude earthquake.
Torrance Mayor Patrick Furey has suggested that nearby residents stay indoors, turn off their air conditioners and keep the windows closed.