The future of a SoCal refinery could affect gas prices

It was on February 18th that a powerful explosion rocked the Exxon-Mobil refinery in Torrance…

Neighbor Barbara McConn felt it. She says "it wasn't just the noise, you felt the percussion on the house. I was surprised our windows didn't blow out or something. It was very strong."

The explosion was in a building referred to as an "air pollution device" that has a catalytic cracking unit inside.

That's the main unit for making gasoline. And, one of the main excuses we've been hearing from groups like the Western States Petroleum Association for why our prices at the pump spiked so much at times in the past year.

Now, seven months later the big oil company is trying to convince regulators to let them get back to full production using the old air pollution device the new one that exploded replaced. And, just days before that's supposed to happen, Cal-OSHA is investigating a leak of modified hydrofluoric acid.

That's described as a very strong acid that Cal Osha says dripped for about 15 minutes from a failed clamp on a pipe. The Torrance Fire Department, that's still doing its investigation, says during the that time there were 10 drops a minute to leak.

The Cal-OSHA investigation could take up to six months.

In a statement, Exxon-Mobil called the amount of the leak small. Said they reacted quickly. Added there was no impact on the community.

As for putting the plant back online, that will be up to a 5-member panel at the AQMD that's scheduled to hear the request next Thursday at 9am.

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