(October 20, 2005) -- A rotten egg smell spread across much of LB at midafternoon today (Oct. 20) from the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance (190th St @ Crenshaw just off 405 fwy), after a unit malfunctioned and gases were flared off (burned off), the company said. The byproducts produced from the flaring included sulfur dioxide and what the company called trace amounts of hydrogen sulfide, the latter producing a rotten egg smell and detectable by human beings at very low levels.
Company spokeswoman Carolin Keith told LBReport.com that the flared release was a safety measure to release gases under pressure in the malfunctioning unit. Ms. Keith acknowledged that the resulting "rotten egg" smell from the flared release of sulfur dioxide with trace amounts of hydrogen sulfide was objectionable, especially to sensitive persons, but she said it's not considered hazardous at the concentrations that were involved.
Ms. Keith said Torrance PD and AQMD were notified and NO evacuations or "shelter in place" directives were issued for residents in surrounding areas.
The odor wafted into LB (and inland) on westerly winds...and LBFD says calls began coming in about 3:15 p.m. One central LB resident said it smelled "sickening." Another said the odor was strong in Memorial Hts. We noticed it in Los Altos at about 4:00 p.m., not strong but not pleasant either. An ELB reader north of the 405 reported smelling it strongly about 4:30 p.m. ExxobMobil says incident at refinery ended about 3:40 p.m.;
Ironically, the Exxon-Mobil Torrance refinery was NOT one of the refineries involved in a flaring event in September that sent multiple plumes of black smoke into the air, affecting WLB, Wrigley and downtown LB areas. The September flaring incident resulted from an L.A. Dept. of Water and Power snafu that triggered an electrical outage that shutg down some other area refineries.
The Exxon-Mobil Torrance refinery's web page says in part: