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Independent Panel to Review U.S. Refinery Safety

Texas City RefineryBP LogoBP is to appoint an independent panel to review the safety management systems and corporate safety culture of BP Products North America Inc, the subsidiary responsible for its U.S. refining operations.

Responding to a recommendation made by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), which is investigating the March 23 explosion at the company's Texas City refinery, BP Group chief executive John Browne said the panel would be headed by an external chairperson and would include outside safety experts and BP staff representatives.

Browne said: "The Texas City explosion was the worst tragedy in the recent history of BP, and we will do everything possible to ensure nothing like it happens again. The recommendation from the CSB is a welcome development and we take it seriously.

"We will move speedily to appoint an independent panel and offer it every help to do its job. When it reports, we will act with equal speed to deal with its recommendations."

Browne said the panel's findings would be made public.

Ross Pillari, president of BP Products North America Inc., said he had discussed the recommendation with the CSB and pledged that "the membership and mission of the independent panel will be consistent with the recommendation of the CSB.

"We have made use of a number of outside experts in our investigation of the March 23 explosion. This additional step, which will take in all five of BP's U.S refineries, is entirely consistent with how we have proceeded to date," Pillari said. "We see value in this approach, and we look forward to working with the CSB and the panel towards our common goal of making our refineries as safe as they can be."

BP will issue its final incident investigation report in late September. The final report will build on the findings and recommendations contained in the interim investigation report issued May 17 and will identify the underlying causes of the incident. Like the interim report, it will contain recommendations for future action.

BP continues to make corrective actions recommended in the May 17 report. The company has appointed a new refinery manager, a new health, safety and environment manager, a new compliance manager and a new maintenance manager. The organisation has been simplified, to ensure everyone involved in maintenance and operation of the refinery knows what they are accountable for and to whom they are accountable. Roles, responsibilities and expectations around start-up, operating, maintenance and evacuation procedures have been clarified. Action has been taken to ensure procedures are followed across the site.

On a longer-term basis, the company will halt the venting of heavier-than-air hydrocarbon vapours from blow-down drums and stacks in the refinery. The company has prohibited the occupancy of office trailers within 500 feet of blow down stacks and flares and has leased a 100,000-square foot building in downtown Texas City to provide offices for employees whose work does not require their presence at the refinery.

The company is also in the midst of a top-to-bottom, continuous inspection and evaluation of the Texas City refinery. All high-pressure units (four units operating above 1000 psi) have been taken out of service and are undergoing a complete root and branch analysis from design through to current configuration. They will not be returned to service until that process is completed and the units determined to be safe.

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Posted 23/08/05


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