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Power outage in LA County prompts flaring at Torrance refinery

File: A gigantic flare lit up the early morning sky around the Torrance Refinery Oct. 11, 2016.
NBC Los Angeles
File: A gigantic flare lit up the early morning sky around the Torrance Refinery Oct. 11, 2016.

A power outage that briefly affected nearly 90,000 customers across several South Bay cities Tuesday morning prompted a flaring event at the Torrance Refinery.

The outage started at 5:41 a.m. and affected the communities of Torrance, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Gardena and Hawthorne. Full power was restored by about 7 a.m., according to Paul Netter, spokesman for Southern California Edison.

But the outage forced the refinery in Torrance to burn off its product with an unplanned flaring, which, as the Associated Press reports, could be seen for many miles.

Flaring is a safety mechanism employed regularly during power outages or other emergencies. The procedure is used to relieve pressure and make sure excess gases are burned off safely to minimize how much makes it into the atmosphere, the Torrance Refining Company said in a statement.

As a precaution, Torrance police, fire and city officials closed off roads around the refinery and warned residents to shelter in place, close doors and windows and avoid running their air conditioners.

That shelter-in-place advisement was lifted shortly after 7 a.m., according to a notice on the Torrance Police Department’s Facebook page.

Streets around the refinery were also reopened, except for a closure on Del Amo Boulevard between Crenshaw and Maple boulevards, according to Torrance police Sgt. Paul Kranke.

Edison still could not say what caused the outage but said in a statement it had multiple teams investigating.

This was at least the second outage in a month that forced the Torrance refinery to resort to flaring.

“The last two times or three times it’s happened, it’s been Edison losing power. And that was what’s causing that. Well, Edison needs to figure that out,” Kranke told KPCC.

A brief outage in late September also prompted a flaring event.

Authorities at the time said the flaring was caused by an “offsite transformer failure.”

Refinery officials said they started discussions after that flareup with Edison “about improving their grid to the refinery and will obviously look to accelerate those discussions and action by SCE to provide more reliable electricity to the refinery and the community.”

The refinery itself could be offline for days because of the outage, according to the company’s statement.

In its statement, Edison said it regrets the inconvenience the event caused and thanked customers for their patience.

The refinery was previously owned by ExxonMobil but now belongs to PBF Energy. An explosion there in early 2015 covered the surrounding area in ash and forced the shutdown of the facility for months. ExxonMobil was fined as a result of that incident.

This story has been updated.