The city of Torrance, California became the home of an oil refinery in 1929. A company called General Petroleum Corporation ran the facility during the start of The Great Depression, and set up a system of pipelines that brought in crude oil from the San Joaquin Valley area.
Workers at the Torrance plant faced various health hazards, one of which came in the form of asbestos. The refinery purchased and used a variety of products that contained this material because it had the ability to hold together even in the intense temperatures that occur in the oil refining process. Asbestos is composed of tiny particles that cling together, and over time microscopic bits are likely to break off and be introduced into the atmosphere. Employees at the plant would regularly breathe in these particles without even noticing. The bits of asbestos would remain lodged internally for long periods of time, and were likely to be a destructive force to their host's respiratory system. People who inhaled the asbestos regularly developed cancerous diseases, most notably asbestos cancer, which can be lethal. Anyone who has spent time around asbestos may have unknowingly inhaled these tiny particles, so all current and former employees of the refinery should notify their healthcare provider about this possibility.
In April of 2008, a small fire erupted within a hydrotreater unit at the refinery. The blaze began at the start of the day, but alert workers were able to put out the flames in less than half an hour. An onsite crew immediately surveyed the fire, and drenched it with water, successfully stopping it before the flames could affect any other plant equipment. No one was injured during the incident, and an investigation is currently underway to determine what caused the fire to start.
The Torrance refinery was eventually sold to the Exxon Mobil Corporation, which runs it today. ExxonMobil can trace its history back to the late 1800's when John D. Rockefeller formed the massive corporation called Standard Oil. This lasted until 1911, when Rockefeller's business was declared to be an illegal monopoly. The company was broken up into several smaller entities, including the one that is now known as ExxonMobil. This division continues to be a major force in the oil industry, and it operates refineries and gas stations all across the nation. Their facility in Torrance now has the ability to produce 149,000 barrels of oil each day.
Last modified: December 09, 2009.