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BP Admits Safety Lapses

Company will spend $1 billion to improve safety at Texas City refinery after explosion

by Glenn Hess
December 19, 2005 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 83, ISSUE 51

Credit: William Philpott/AFP/Getty Images
Accident at BP's Texas City facility has prompted safety changes.
Credit: William Philpott/AFP/Getty Images
Accident at BP's Texas City facility has prompted safety changes.

Plant Safety

BP Products North America says it plans to spend about $1 billion over the next five years to improve and maintain its Texas City, Texas, refinery. The company has acknowledged that serious management lapses were largely to blame for the explosion and fire that killed 15 workers and injured more than 170 others at the site in March.

In a final report issued on Dec. 9, BP said its investigation team had found "no evidence of anyone consciously or intentionally taking actions or decisions that put others at risk" in the blast. However, "the team found many areas where procedures, policies, and expected behaviors were not met."

Investigators said the absence of key personnel, confusion around who was in charge, and the behavior of supervisors eroded the chain of command to the point that decision-making authority was unclear. In addition, process safety, operations performance, and systematic risk reduction priorities had not been set and consistently reinforced by management.

"We accept the findings, and we are working to make Texas City a complex that attains the highest levels of safety, reliability, and environmental performance," said Ross J. Pillari, president of BP Products North America.

The accident occurred when workers restarting an octane-enhancing isomerization unit overfilled and overheated it, causing the unit to overflow. Workers died because construction trailers were placed too close to the equipment, according to investigators.

The company said it would install modern process control systems on major units, transition to a new maintenance management system, improve worker training, remove blowdown stacks, and implement other recommendations in the report.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration has referred its investigation to the Department of Justice, which could bring criminal charges. In September, OSHA found that BP committed more than 300 willful violations and fined the company $21.3 million.



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