Explosion Rocks Exxon Oil Refinery in Torrance

A fiery explosion at an Exxon Mobile refinery in Torrance has left four workers injured and California drivers on high alert. The blast occurred at 9 a.m. Wednesday at a recently-installed processing facility, triggering an earthquake-like jolt that could be felt for a least a mile.

“Everything was going smooth,” said electrical contractor Cory Milsap-Harris, who was working in a switch house next to blast site. “Next thing I hear sounded like heavy metal next door. There was a loud bang. You could feel the building shake a little.”

The explosion sent a cloud of smoking billowing into the air, with ash raining down across the area. That soon prompted an advisory from the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

The incident was under control by midday, but not without major damage to the refinery. Now, experts say drivers could begin to feel some residual pain at the pump.

“Prices could rise 7 to 15 cents per gallon at (a) varying pace by a week from today,” said Allison Mac, spokeswoman and petroleum analyst for gasbuddy.com. Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, concurred with that assessment, noting that the impact would not be nearly as bad as the 2012 Chevron refinery fire in Richmond.

The state Division of Occupational Safety and Health is investigating the incident, which is believed to have started at a fluid catalytic cracking unit. The probe could take up to six months to complete.

Read more about the explosion here.