Refinery Air Monitoring
This page was last updated December 2015
ARB’s Monitoring and Laboratory Division and the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA) have completed the first volume of the Refinery Emergency Air Monitoring Assessment Report. The May 2015 report, “Objective 1: Delineation of Existing Capabilities” is now available online.
The report provides a comprehensive inventory of emergency air monitoring assets and capabilities located in and around California’s fifteen major oil refineries. It serves as the basis for the ongoing assessment and guideline development phases of the project.
To view this report, please select the links below:
Fire at ExxonMobil Torrance (March 11th, 2015)
ExxonMobil Torrance Air Impacts Assessment (February 18th, 2015)
The unit that reportedly failed is the electrostatic precipitator that separates solid catalyst fines from the flue gas of the fluid catalytic cracking unit in the refining process. The solid material produced from the precipitator is spent catalyst, composed chiefly of inert material such as alumina silicate or zeolite, with a trace amount of carbon and possibly trace metal(s). The carbon and metal (if any) is bonded to the inert substrate. The types of trace metal(s) present would depend on the specific crude feedstock's mineral content (if any) and the formulation of the catalyst in use (only ExxonMobil would know that.)
The "ash" present at Torrance is actually these gritty, largely inert fine particles. They do pose an inhalation risk as all particles do. Inhalation may also pose a risk of acute toxicity if inhalation cannot be avoided.
The other air pollutant of concern would be the petroleum smoke from the intensive flaring activity. This smoke contains a broad spectrum of unhealthful particles and toxic aerosols that of course should not be inhaled if at all possible.
South Coast Air Quality Management District has inspectors and emergency air monitoring personnel onsite in Torrance. They have deployed portable particulate matter monitors, two portable gas chromatographs and samplers for lab analysis of the solid "ash".
The Governor's Interagency Working Group on Refinery Safety released its final report, Improving Public and Worker Safety at Oil Refineries in February 2014 and it is available here.
ARB and the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA) released a plan to assess emergency air monitoring capabilities in communities near petroleum refineries throughout the State. This assessment is now in progress.
The 15-month project will be conducted collaboratively with local air monitoring agencies, emergency response agencies, and refineries. It will evaluate and make recommendations on the potential need for additional resources including equipment, services, staffing, and training to support local air emergency response programs.
This plan supports the mission of the Governor’s Interagency Working Group on Refinery Safety to improve public and worker safety through enhanced oversight of refineries, and to strengthen emergency preparedness in anticipation of any future incident. The Working Group consisted of participants from 13 agencies and departments, as well as the Governor’s office.
The plan, entitled Air Monitoring for Accidental Refinery Releases: Assessment of Capabilities and Potential Improvements Project Plan - July 2013 is available here.
U.S. Chemical Safety Board has released a draft regulatory report about the Chevron Richmond Refinery as of January 1st, 2014. See report.
The buttons below allow you to access information by region. Information includes: refinery rules, incident reporting, hazardous materials programs, risk management plans, sheltering in-place, fenceline and community air monitoring, network and emergency response plans, refinery websites, etc.
This interactive map allows you to view refinery information and pertinent air monitoring data using
Google Maps. Click on a refinery to see site information. On the Air Monitoring Stations overlay, you can
select ARB and local Air District monitoring sites for current
site-specific air quality data. Layers showing County or Air District boundaries may also be displayed.
- Refineries - Air Monitoring Stations
A 2003 overview of the California refining industry that provides a general characterization of processes, operations and throughputs for individual refineries, as well as detailed information on each refinery’s community outreach programs, community alert systems and emergency preparedness and response programs.
- Staff Report and Appendices A-G (PDF-4711k)
- CCLHO/CAPCOA Air-Borne Emergency Response Procedure (October 17, 2007)
A template for local governments to develop basic response procedures for air contaminant releases.
- California Air Response Planning Alliance (CARPA)
An ad hoc forum of federal, state, local and tribal agencies focused on increasing coordination and agency capabilities for responding to large hazardous air release incidents.
- Description of air contaminants from the California Department of Public Health
- Searchable air quality conditions and forecasts provided by US EPA
- Addressing Air Emissions from the Petroleum Refinery Sector. US Environmental Protection Agency Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, 18-Oct-2011 (powerpoint presentation). - (PPT)
- General information on oil refining and refinery throughputs provided by US DOE Energy Information Administration
- If you would like to receive email updates on State refinery regulations, you can sign-up here.