Carson Refinery Explosion Reignites Fears
On Tuesday, February 25th, a major fire broke out at the Marathon Petroleum Refinery in Carson that was sparked by an explosion in one of their cooling towers. It raged out of control for six hours.
The refinery is the largest on the West Coast. As a result of the fire, the Los Angeles basin, home to millions of people, was filled with soot and harmful gases. The 405 Freeway had to be closed. Marathon Oil Corporation, which earned $480 million in profit in 2019, claimed that “no risk to the community has been identified”, despite the plumes of flames lighting up the night sky. Even after the uncontrolled fire was extinguished, the refinery engaged in emergency flaring of flammable gases, emitting particulate matter (soot), as well as harmful chemicals such as SOx, NOx, and VOCs.
February 15 was the fifth anniversary of another refinery accident which narrowly avoided a release of MHF (modified hydrofluoric acid) forming a toxic cloud which could have killed thousands of people. Exxon Mobil’s Refinery, now called the Torrance Refinery after being purchased by PBF Energy, uses modified hydrofluoric acid, an extremely dangerous chemical, in its alkylation process to produce high octane gasoline, and so does the Valermo Wilmington Refinery. There have been ten leaks of MHF just since 2017.
Conversion to a safer process would save lives in the event of an explosion which caused the accidental release of MHF. The Torrance Refinery Action Alliance, (TRAA) together with the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter’s PV-South Bay Regional Group, Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), and other organizations, are fighting to force local refineries to completely ban the use of MHF in their operations. However, despite numerous hearings and scientific evidence presented to the AQMD (Air Quality Management District), it has sided with the Petroleum industry and chose to allow this chemical to be used at these two refineries in our communities.
Photo and Video by LA County Fire Dept @LACoFDPIO