TOSCO-Carson Refinery Fire


At approximately 4:49 p.m. on Monday, April 23, 2001, a fire broke out in the Coker processing unit at Tosco's Los Angeles Refinery, Carson Plant. There were no injuries associated with the fire which was extinguished at approximately 8:20 p.m. The initial fire was large and the resulting heat caused numerous process lines to fail and feed the fire. Analysis of events and data indicate the cause of the fire was a failure of the 4-inch quench line to the coke drum overhead vapor lines. A series of litigation cases against TOSCO et al. arose from this event.

EnviroComp’s Role

We were initially retained by the attorneys representing TOSCO. Our work involved: 1) the review of available documents and testimonies; 2) the collection of available meteorological and air quality data during the accident; 3) accident reconstruction and quantification of the materials that burned; 4) combustion calculations to quantify the amount of chemicals released by the fire; 5) plume modeling to calculate the ground level impact of plume concentrations; and 6) visualization of results with geocoding of thousands of plaintiffs’ locations and use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Recently, because of the trust of both sides in our scientific skills and professional integrity, we were retained by both plaintiffs and defense attorneys to provide GIS and database support. We were very pleased to have this unique opportunity to help achieve a resolution of the case.

Some of our results are presented in Figure 1 (Visualization of Benzene measurements in the downwind region during the fire), Figure 2 (Calculations of emissions of PM10 from the fire), Figure 3 (Geocoding example), and Figure 4 (fire plume modeling concentrations).


Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3 Figure 4