US chem safety board, BP mark 5th year anniversary of explosion

23 March 2010 20:49  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) chairman John Bresland on Tuesday urged BP to recommit to safety on the five-year anniversary of the deadly explosion at the company’s refinery at Texas City, Texas.

“I urge everyone in the oil refining industry to take a moment today and think about that tragic loss of life and the severity of so many injuries which continue to afflict workers five years later,” Bresland said in a statement.

“Today would be an appropriate time for company management to pause and personally pledge to do everything in their power to prevent this kind of catastrophic accident from happening at their refineries,” Bresland continued.

“And in my view it would also be appropriate for BP to recommit to safety in a way that builds on the steps it has taken in the aftermath of the Texas City tragedy.”

The explosion - which occurred on the restart of an isomerisation unit at the 455,790 bbl/day refinery - killed 15 workers and injured 170.

“Our investigation team turned up extensive evidence showing a catastrophe waiting to happen, that cost-cutting had affected safety programmes and critical maintenance; production pressures resulted in costly mistakes made by workers likely fatigued by working long hours; internal audits and safety studies brought problems to the attention of BP’s board in London, but they were not sufficiently acted upon,” Bresland said.

“Refinery accidents at other companies continue to occur with dismaying frequency,” the Chemical Safety Board chairman continued. “These accidents will only stop when every refinery has made the financial and human commitment to sound process safety management.”

BP spokesman Scott Dean said: “This anniversary is a time for reflection and remembrance, but not a single day goes by where we don’t think about the tragic events of the day and rededicate ourselves to being an industry leader in process safety.”

Dean said BP has spent more than $1bn (€740m) to upgrade and modernise the refinery; systematically inspected and refurbished major process unit; reduced the “risk profile” of the site; eliminated the use of blow down systems in heavier-than-air, light hydrocarbon service and installed a state-of-the-art flare system; and removed portable buildings from process areas at the refinery.

The recordable injury rate at Texas City has declined every year since 2005, Dean said.

BP has paid more than $2bn to settle lawsuits related to the blast, according to news reports.

($1 = €0.74)

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By: Brian Ford
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