Wednesday, June 16, 2010
BP cares about people? Their history says otherwise
This is the Texas City refinery owned by BP. They bought it from Amaco in 1998 and ran it until this explosion in 2005. Some 15 people were killed and 180 seriously injured with burns and lost limbs. The CSB (Chemical Safety Board) who investigated found many deficiencies in the way BP operated. First there was a 25% reduction in costs of operation. Staffs were cut to save money. One the day of the explosion the operator who had worked 12 hour shifts for 29 days straight was adding a highly flammable chemical to a process tank. The tank was supposed to be filled to a level of 6 feet however it had been common practice to fill the tank to 9 feet in order for the liquid to flow through a pipe and into a heater. What the operator didn't know was that the tank had already reached past the 9 foot level. That was done by the night shift. At the 9 foot level a high level alarm goes off or is suposed to but the chemical had already gone past that level. Not knowing how much liquid was in the tank the operator continued filling. There was another alarm and sight glass at the top of the tank some 70 feet but the alarm wasn't working and the sight glass was so dirty it was unreadable. With the pressure building and the operator not knowing how much of the explosive liquid was in the tank shut down the heaters and tried to divert to another tank but the valve to the overflow tanks had been manually shut so the vapors traveled out a vent stack then down to ground level where a running pick up truck (its' engine starting to race - sound formiliar?) set off the explosion.
If you click on the photo above you'll notice a couple of trailers in the top center. This was where contractors were killed just after coming back from a break.
CSB Chairman Merritt told the committee of further comparisons of safety culture similarities at Texas City and Prudhoe Bay. Both investigations, she said, found deficiencies in how BP managed the safety of process changes. In Prudhoe Bay, Booz Allen Hamilton found "a normalization of deviance where risk levels gradually crept up due to evolving operating conditions." This compared, she said, to Texas City, where at BP's refinery "Abnormal startups were not investigated and became routine, while critical equipment was allowed to decay. By the day of the accident, the distillation equipment had six key alarms, instruments and controls that were malfunctioning. Trailers had been moved into dangerous locations without appropriate safety reviews."
Prudhoe Bay was a case of BP being too cheap to do proper pipeline maintenance even though they were makeing record profits at the time. That spill resulted in 215,000 gallons of oil contaminating the environment. That spill lasted from March 2005 until August when BP finally shut down to fix the leak. They were fined $20 million.
The head of BP was on air today saying how BP isn't some big uncaring corporation. I just have to ask, with your track record how could you consider yourselves caring? How many times must you lie to people before they don't want you in their country killing their people and polluting their land and waters?