Dear Friends and Neighbors:
As we began this new year, like many other businesses, we customarily reflected upon the previous year’s performance and evaluated what we did well, where we can make improvements, and set goals for the year ahead. Like many of you, we primarily dealt with the unexpected impacts 2020 brought, mostly involving the onset and crushing impact of COVID-19, which we continue to deal with on a daily basis. For those of you who lost loved ones, I extend my heartfelt sympathy to you and your families.
Although our workforce and business partners operated under enormous pressure in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, with some facing hardships at home, their steadfast commitment, discipline and resilience allowed us to operate safely, reliably and environmentally responsibly throughout the pandemic, which led to the following record-breaking achievements I’m happy to share with you.
2020 In Review
Our business year started well. Safety is at the heart of everything we do, so when the Coronavirus emerged, our strong safety culture was able to quickly incorporate preventive COVID-19 procedures into our already robust protocols. Our employees were methodical and diligent in practicing COVID-19 protocols at work, keeping themselves, their co-workers, and families safe. Our team did such a good job, contact tracing found zero cases of COVID-19 were contracted at the Refinery.
We achieved a record year of safe and reliable operations, without any process safety events or major unplanned downtime, while improving personal safety performance, which earned the Refinery a Safety Award from the American Fuel and Petroleum Manufacturers Association. This is a direct result of our team’s constant focus on safety and our belief that all incidents are preventable, which is demonstrated through our investigation of even minor incidents and near misses to identify the causes and implement corrective actions to help prevent more serious incidents from occurring in the future.
We also achieved a record year operating in an environmentally responsible manner. Notably in 2020, we recorded the lowest ever flaring and related sulfur dioxide (SOx) emissions in the Torrance Refinery’s history. Our 2020 flaring emissions of 1.89 tons was well below our performance target of 27.36 tons. In fact, since 2017, our flaring emissions have been steadily decreasing largely due to our dedication to improving our equipment reliability and operating resilience.
A contributing factor to this achievement is recent improvements in the reliability of our electrical supply from Southern California Edison (SCE). In 2016, two power disruptions from the SCE external electrical supply system resulted in interruptions to our operations and significant flaring. SCE completed major electrical reliability improvements to their facilities in 2020 and Torrance Refinery also completed upgrades to enable the refinery to better withstand power disruptions and prevent flaring incidents. I am very proud of the dedication and commitment of our refinery personnel who were able to work together and with SCE to achieve this incredible record. I know the community appreciates this as well because we have discussed our achievements with the Mayor, City Council members, and staff.
On January 1, 2020, in compliance with the South Coast Air Quality Management District Rule 1180, the Refinery began its Fence-line Air Monitoring System around the perimeter of our Refinery to monitor a comprehensive list of target compounds in real time and provide that air quality information to the public via our website. I am pleased to say that since its inception, we have logged more than 12 million data points demonstrating there were no measured exceedances of the hourly concentration thresholds for any of the compounds. This reflects the care and concern each one of us exhibits at work each day, on every shift.
Operational reliability and safety go together, along with resiliency, the capacity to recover quickly from power interruptions or other unexpected issues. A record year of running reliably means operating our equipment and units continuously as planned throughout the year, only being taken out of service for planned maintenance. One marker of reliability is “pump life;” in short, the longer pumps run continuously without need for unplanned repairs, our operations become more reliable. In 2020, the Torrance Refinery achieved industry leading pump life of 132 months between repairs! We have more than 1100 pumps operating in the Refinery, so this was a significant achievement for our team.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 prevented us from benefitting financially from our well-run operations in 2020. Product demand destruction we faced resulted in record losses for our Refinery, our Company, and our Industry. We responded to this challenge with an urgency to focus on reducing our costs, eliminating redundancy, and improving processes for efficiencies. Ultimately, our efforts helped us limit our losses and put us in a stronger position as the economy improves with the vaccination rollout and other recovery efforts.
Throughout the year, we also continued to support our nonprofit partners and strengthen our relationships in the community. You may have read in previous articles how we managed to adjust our community outreach plans, despite the pandemic’s impact on our finances, to support urgent COVID-19 community needs with local nonprofit partners who serve a diverse population:
The Rear View Mirror
Despite the challenges and uncertainty our team and company faced in 2020, we surpassed numerous performance milestones thanks to our dedicated team members, who demonstrated resilience, flexibility and an unrelenting focus on safety, reliability, and care for the community.
Like many of you, COVID-19 still dominates our lives, yet we are hopeful that 2021 will bring brighter days. Until then, we will continue to focus on running safe, reliable and environmentally responsible operations, and providing support to community partners who deliver essential community services during this critical time.
Refinery Manager Steve Steach shares why he received the COVID-19 vaccine as a way to encourage others.
I wish you all a safe, happy and healthy new year, and thank you for taking the time to read.
Torrance Refinery Manager