ExxonMobil’s Toxic Torrance Refinery Failure, 2015




Keller, Cameron

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This report discusses the ethicality of ExxonMobil’s actions when performing maintenance leading up to the Torrance refinery explosion in 2015. The Torrance refinery was ExxonMobil’s second smallest refinery that accounted for over 10% of the gasoline produced throughout California. In addition, this refinery was located in the center of a 150,000-person community, making safety in refinery processes critical in protecting the surrounding community. However, ExxonMobil implemented an unsafe, alternative procedure when performing maintenance on equipment that ultimately led to an explosion. After further investigation, it became evident that the refinery managers had ignored clear signs of danger and had used expired equipment, playing a significant role in the disaster. ExxonMobil violated three of Chevron Phillips’ 10 Tenets of Operation in the events leading up to the explosion. The company had hoped to maximize the production of gasoline and company profit when violating these tenets, but the opposite occurred. The violation of several tenets led to the injury of 4 refinery workers, a $566,000 fine from OSHA, a heavy hit to the company stock, and a heavy hit to gasoline prices throughout California. Furthermore, a toxic catalytic dust was released into the surrounding Torrance community that has unknown and potentially devastating, long-term side effects. If ExxonMobil had acted ethically in accordance with the 10 Tenets of Operation, then these problems could have been avoided altogether because ethical actions yield a safer and more profitable work environment.

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