04 September 2012 09:13 [Source: ICIS news]
SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Anglo-Dutch energy major Shell has been charged in Singapore over safety lapses related to a fire at its Pulau Bukom oil refinery in September last year, the country's Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a statement issued late on Monday.
“MOM has filed a charge against Shell Eastern Petroleum Pte Ltd (Shell) in the subordinate courts on 31 August 2012 for an offence under the Workplace Safety and Health Act (WSHA),” it said.
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A fire at a pumphouse at the 500,000 bbl/day refinery on 28 September last year escalated with multiple explosions, according to the MOM. The blaze was fully extinguished after 32 hours, it said.
A Shell spokesperson said the company was not in a position to comment on the charge as “the matter is currently before the courts”.
“We have extended our full co-operation to the relevant authorities. Safety is a top priority for Shell,” the spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement.
“We regret this incident and are applying the learnings to avoid such an occurrence in the future," the spokesperson added.
The MOM said the explosion followed maintenance works for a pipeline, which required the removal of petroleum products from within it in a process called de-oiling.
MOM said investigations showed that Shell had “allowed an open draining method” to be used during the de-oiling of the pipeline.
This method utilised trays to collect the naphtha flowing out, which allowed flammable vapours to be released into the air, the MOM statement alleged.
“The accumulation of such vapours created a flammable atmosphere that would easily be ignited by any ignition source,” it added.
“Shell had also failed to deploy portable gas monitors that would have allowed measurements to be taken within the proximity of the open draining, and would have alerted workers and safety staff to dangerous levels of flammable vapours,” the MOM said.
($1 = S$1.25)
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