Friday, February 20, 2015

Oil refinery explosion on Wednesday in Torrance, CA

Refinery units are heavily damaged after an explosion at the Exxon-Mobil refinery in Torrance, California, February 18, 2015.  REUTERS-Bob Riha Jr.
Credit: Reuters
It is difficult for me not to be horrified by this picture of a Torrance, CA oil refinery that had an explosion on Wednesday. 

Here's a preliminary explanation/guess of what happened from Reuters:
Trade publication OPIS, citing an unidentified source, reported that an electrostatic precipitator (ESP), which reduces fluid catalytic cracker particulates, exploded as contract workers were doing maintenance on the nearby fluid catalytic cracking unit, or FCC. 
"Contractors working on the FCC to fix the expanders," the source said, adding that an injection of ammonia on top of the flue gas stream caused a pressure buildup, which resulted in the ESP unit explosion. 
The unit could take up to a year to replace, the source said.
(I confess that I don't understand refinery technology enough to know exactly what that means.)

It's likely a coincidence that the United Steelworkers union has decided to go on strike recently at a number of oil refineries around the country. That said, I think it definitely highlights their emphasis that this strike is about worker safety. I don't know enough of the issues to make a judgment, but that seems like something just as important as wages/benefits. 

1 comment:

  1. I would not be surprised if it was not a coincidence that OPEC deciding not to decrease supply during falling oil prices is followed by US worker strike and plant malfunction.