Cal/OSHA Cites ExxonMobil for Unrepaired Leak at Torrance Refinery

"This is a case [where] a minor repair could have prevented workers at this refinery from exposure to a life-threatening acid," said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. "These citations and penalties are a wake-up call that refineries must follow strict safety protocols to protect their employees."

Cal/OSHA announced March 4 that it has issued citations to ExxonMobil Refining & Supply Company after it found the company did not repair faulty equipment at its Torrance refinery for four years. Proposed penalties in the case total $72,120.

The state agency opened an investigation following a hydrofluoric acid leak at the refinery's alkylation unit on Sept. 6, 2015, and investigators discovered the leak was related to a temporary clamp that was installed on a 3-inch nozzle flange following an earlier leak in 2011. The nozzle was not replaced until January 2016, according to the agency.

"This is a case [where] a minor repair could have prevented workers at this refinery from exposure to a life-threatening acid," said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. "These citations and penalties are a wake-up call that refineries must follow strict safety protocols to protect their employees."

Cal/OSHA's news release said the three citations issued March 4 include one willful-serious, indicating the employer was aware of the hazardous condition and did not take reasonable steps to address it, and two general citations for ExxonMobil's alleged failure to conduct a hazard analysis and identify and fix the 2011 leak.

The release said "ExxonMobil mitigated the leak caused by the faulty clamp within 48 hours of the release. The company also removed tank 5C-31 from service, where the faulty nozzle was attached, to make repairs. Before ExxonMobil was allowed to restart operations in January, a complete inspection of the alkylation unit was conducted to ensure there were no additional leaking flanges or nozzles."

Although Cal/OSHA had issued 19 citations with proposed penalties of $566,600 to ExxonMobil after an explosion at the refinery on Feb. 18, 2015, injured four workers, the new citations are not related to that incident.

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