Exxon Mobil’s Outdated Procedures, Old Equipment Led to 2015 Torrance Refinery Explosion: Federal Report

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Exxon Mobil Corp. relied on outdated procedures and used equipment that was older than its safe operating life, which led to a 2015 explosion at the Torrance refinery, endangering 150,000 nearby residents, a federal agency said Wednesday.

Workers at the oil refinery ran the facility “blind” leading up to the Feb. 18 explosion that largely shuttered the plant for more than a year, said Vanessa Allen Sutherland, chairwoman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. Gasoline prices soared following the explosion and stayed higher than normal for months.

Citing a 73-page report her agency released Wednesday, Sutherland said the explosion posed a threat to the community because highly toxic hydrofluoric acid was on site. The chemical, used at only two refineries in the state and about 50 nationwide, can immediately penetrate the skin and destroy tissue.

“The 2015 explosion had the potential to be catastrophic,” Sutherland said during a news conference Wednesday.

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