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    L.A.-Triggered Power Outage Triggers Smoke Plumes, Flaring From Area Refineries

    (Sept. 13, 2005) -- A power outage affecting parts of L.A. shut down refineries west of LB, which began burning off petrochemical products to prevent hazardous materials from building-up at the plants...and sent multiple plumes of smoke into the air and lungs of area residents.

    Two workers at the ConocoPhillips refinery on West Anaheim St. in Wilmington suffered what the company called minor respiratory and nausea related symptoms, were taken to a nearby hospital and released.

    In addition to being visible across the L.A. basin (Fox News Channel and MSNBC showed it nationwide), the smoke was seen in much of LB. The photos below were taken by a LB resident from the area of Wardlow Rd. at the L.A. river, facing west.

    Refinery outage Sept 12/05

    Refinery outage Sept 12/05

    Refinery outage Sept 12/05

    Andy Perez, spokesman for ConocoPhillips told that as a result of the L.A.-triggered power outage (began about 1 p.m. due to a DWP worker error), the firm's Wilmington plant suffered a complete loss of power. "All of our units immediately shut down as a safety precaution, and the heavy flaring of black smoke is part of safety mechanism to safely burn off excess materials and gases that collect."

    Mr. Perez said LA Hazmat, L.A. Firefighters, AQMD and CP's personnel conducted on and off site monitoring and determined there was no need to evacuate.

    Multiple L.A.-powered refineries were simultaneously flaring, compounding the effects. "When a refinery loses power, hydrocarbon products, excess gases and fuel product can become trapped in the pipes and as a safety measure flaring is expected," Mr. Perez said, adding the plant has been in the community for roughly 80 years.

    Also affected by the power outage was the Valero refinery (capacity: 140,000 barrels per day) and possibly the Shell refinery.

    "I know they burn gases regularly but this was particularly egregious," a north Wrigley area resident emailed. The resident said a call to AQMD acknowledged the burn-off but produced no immediate details on air quality impacts.

    Restarting a refinery entails more than flipping a switch, Mr. Perez said...and while power was back on, as of about 6:00 p.m. Sept. 9, the ConocoPhillips plant was still offline. "Technicians will be working around the clock to restart the plant, Mr. Perez said.

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