Los Angeles, CA Refinery Fire And Explosion, Oct 1992


Los Angeles (AP) - Flames fueled by escaping gas still burned Friday at a smoldering Texaco refinery, where an explosion felt 15 miles away rocked the harbor area, shattered windows and chased hundreds of people from homes.
Sixteen refinery workers were hurt slightly, but there were no deaths.
"They are letting off residual gas and there is a flame. They can't tell us how long it will take to burn off. If we put it out, there could be another explosion," said city fire spokesman Paul Gutierrez.
"My first impression was it was like an earthquake," said resident Elvira Jiminez, who was awakened by the blast and fled her home.
The explosion showed up "like a sonic boom" on sound-registering equipment at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, but seismologist Kate Hutton said it didn't show up on earthquake monitors.
The cause of Thursday's 9:43 p.m. blast is a hydrogen processing unit at the 100,000 barrel-per-day refinery wasn't immediately determined, said Texaco spokeswoman
Kelly McAndrew. No damage figure was available, she said.
The refinery was expected to be shut down indefinitely. "Until we find out what the damage is, we won't know," said McAndrew.
The Wilmington refinery is Texaco's second-largest domestic refinery. The oil company's Puget Sound, Wash., refinery produces 130,000 barrels per day.
The hydrogen processing units are used in the manufacture of gasoline and diesel fuel.
More that 200 firefighters battled the flames during the height of the emergency, but that number dwindled to just 15 by mid-day Friday. The explosion damaged several buildings at the 350-acre refinery.
Trading in Texaco stock was halted briefly Friday on the New York Stock Exchange. By the end of the trading day, it had fallen by $2.12 1/2 per share to $60.25. The news of the explosion also drove crude oil and product futures higher on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The blast sent sheets of flame skyward and clouds of black smoke rose over the harbor area 20 miles south of downtown. Residents within 2 square miles of the plant were evacuated to shelters for about five hours.
Resident Jaimi Luna said he immediately recalled the sewer explosion in Guadalajara, Mexico, earlier this year. Scores were killed as buildings and streets collapsed.
"My family was worried a lot. I didn't worry when the thing happened, but later on I worried that some other things might happen like in Mexico," Luna said.
As many as 600 people crowded two excavation centers, but they were allowed to return to their homes before dawn. The concussion from the blast shattered windows for miles.

Santa Cruz Sentinel California 1992-10-10