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examiner.com: No injuries as toxic gas spews from Torrance refinery, burns off

Mar 23, 2007 2:41 PM (4 hrs ago)

TORRANCE, Calif. – Toxic fumes were released from an oil refinery but nobody was injured, authorities said.

Hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide were released into flares at the ExxonMobil Torrance Refinery after the plant south of Los Angeles had a problem with its sulfur recovery unit and shut down shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday, officials said.

The flare system acts as a “safety relief valve” for the refinery that combines liquid and vapors with steam and burns it off, according to information on the refinery’s Web site.

The gas level at the ground did not pose a health hazard, refinery spokeswoman Melba Duarte said.

However, students at nearby schools were kept indoors as a precaution for about three hours, Duarte said.

“There were no injuries and the extent of what it became was more of an odor nuisance problem,” fire Capt. Steve Deuel said.

The event is under investigation by the California Office of Emergency Services and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, Duarte said.

Several other California refineries have had mishaps in recent months. A small fire at a BP plant in Carson last week was contained without injury.

In February, four workers were injured in an electrical fire at a Shell Oil refinery in Wilmington.

A January fire at Chevron’s Richmond refinery slightly injured two workers and spewed sulfur dioxide and other toxins into the air and briefly prompted evacuation of nearby homes.

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