02 April 2005 00:24 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (CNI)--More than a week after an explosion that killed 15 employees at BP’s ?xml:namespace>
Clad in protective gear and respirators, three CSB investigators remained in the area for three hours.
Said investigation manager Bill Hoyle: "The isomerisation unit is structurally intact for the most part, but calcium silicate insulation and metal cladding litter the area and also dangle overhead. Some areas of the isomerisation unit remain unsafe for entry."
Hoyle said the team inspected the blowdown drum connected to the atmospheric vent stack where the vapour release was believed to have occurred.
A number of factors had prevented the CSB team from inspecting the site, including the presence of benzene vapour leaking from a nearby storage tank. The CSB said its entry was also delayed Thursday while final details were resolved on a site access and evidence presentation agreement with the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and BP. That issue was resolved late Thursday.
A diesel truck was cited as a possible source of ignition of the blast at the plant’s isomerisation unit.
Said CSB investigation manager Bill Hoyle: “Witness statements indicate that there was a contractor’s diesel pickup truck parked and idling near the atmospheric vent stack where [a] vapour release occurred.
“Witnesses saw vapour in the area of the truck and observed the engine began to rev up and race,” Hoyle continued. “This behaviour indicates the presence of a flammable atmosphere entering the air intake. A driver reported trying to shut off the engine but was unable to do so.”
However, investigators were unable to identify the truck during their site inspection.
"In the area of debris, we found the demolished remnants of approximately six to 10 trailers and about 30 vehicles, including cars and trucks," Hoyle said. "It is unknown how many vehicles may have been running when the vapour cloud was released from the vent stack."
BP said its own investigation into the explosion was progressing.
“At the conclusion of the fact finding phase we will turn over to government agencies responsible for investigating the incident copies of all of the data, documents and other information we have gathered,” said BP group vice president John Mogford. BP said it expects to complete the fact finding phase of its investigation next week.
Mogford said the second phase of BP’s investigation could take several weeks to complete. “It’s easy to jump to simple conclusions but in an accident like this it is important we systematically understand all of the contributing factors rather than just the obvious ones,” he said.
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