Are You in the Risk Zone?

Torrance Refinery Update 

By Steve Dillow, Group Special Projects Chair

Release of 50,000 lb. of MHF  (Google maps.Risk zones indicated by TRAA)

The explosion that rocked the Torrance refinery, spewing smoke and ash in Feb. 2015 caused only minor injury to four people. But it could have killed 100,000.

The Torrance installation still uses the deadly chemical hydrofluoric acid (HF or MHF). According to an ABC news report (, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board documented an increasing number of fatal, or near-fatal, incidents in refineries using HF or MHF

torrance-refinery-kill-zone-mapRelease of only 5,000 lb. of MHF. Google maps.Risk zones indicated by TRAA

If a fire were to rupture an HF tank, disaster would ensue. According to the grassroots group Torrance Refinery Action Alliance (TRAA), “ExxonMobil’s own research provided to the EPA, [shows that] a release of just 5,000 lb of modified hydrofluoric acid could be lethal to residents within a 2 mile radius, and cause serious, irreversible health damage to those in a 3.2-mile radius.” TRAA research indicates that the Worst Case Risk Zone could be up to 15 miles away.

On Feb. 18, 2017 – two years to the day of the large explosion – another explosion and fire hit the refinery. TRAA, with support from the Sierra Club and other organizations, had organized a rally at Columbia Park in Torrance to commemorate the anniversary. More than 300 people braved the rain to march to the refinery and demand a ban on MHF.

In mid-January we heard that the South Coast AQMD plans to ban HF/MHF at refineries by the end of 2017. The proposed rule would eliminate MHF/HF at both Torrance and the Valero in Wilmington refineries. The SCAQMD credited the TRAAO with providing hard evidence that MHF is no safer than HF, and must also be eliminated.

But the numerous flaring incidents, fires and shutdowns, especially under the new owners, indicate that the operators care more about cost savings than safety. So now, all of us living or working in the South Bay must redouble efforts to make the HF/MHF ban happen.

Keep up with TRAA at

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