17 August 2005 16:54 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (CNI)--BP knew a hydrocarbon level transmitter that gave erroneous information at its ?xml:namespace>
CSB issued an "urgent" safety recommendation - the first in its 8 year history - suggesting that BP's global executive board of directors commission an independent panel to review a range of safety management and "culture" issues in the wake of several accidents at BP's south
CSB Chairman Carolyn Merritt said on Wednesday that the liquid hydrocarbon level indicator in the raffinate splitter tower of the refinery's isomerisation unit gave a series of erroneous readings during the 23 March start up of the unit. Hydrocarbons subsequently overflowed from the unit, causing an explosion that killed 15 contract workers and injured 170 persons.
"These readings falsely indicated that the liquid level in the tower was 10 feet and drifting downward, when in fact liquid hydrocarbons were flooding to at least 12 times that height," Merritt said.
The CSB has found a work order dated 10 March - 13 days before the accident - that acknowledged that the level was in need of repairs. "This work order was signed by several management officials at the BP Texas City site," Merritt said. "Instead of repairing the transmitter prior to start-up the work order indicted that the maintenance would be deferred until after the unit was up and running," Merritt said.
The CSB said it identified and examined 17 start-ups of the raffinate tower between April 2000 and March 2005. In most cases the tower showed abnormally high internal pressure and abnormally high liquid levels, the CSB said. "The persistent abnormalities during the start-up of the raffinate splitter were not investigated by BP as near-miss incidents," Merritt said. "BP did not reevaluate the tower's design, instrumentation or process controls to improve the safety of start-up."
"Taken as a whole, these facts point to systemic lapses in organisational decision making, safety oversight, and safety culture," Merritt said. "If left uncorrected such lapses could lead to additional serious incidents."
CSB said BP should convene an independent panel of experts to examine its corporate management systems, including a number of experts from outside the company and from outside the refining industry.
"We urge BP to take action to establish the independent panel to insure that its work is complete within 6-12 months," CSB said.
CSB is an independent federal agency which investigates industrial chemical accidents. It does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations.
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