Tuesday, June 28, 2005

'Deeply Disturbing' Developments at BP

We're learning a little more every day about how bad conditions were at BP Amoco before the explosion in late March that klled 15 and injured 170 -- and who was not to blame.

According to BP spokesman last month, the explosion was caused by "deeply disturbing" mistakes made by the plant's workers -- their failure to follow procedures and take corrective action sooner. To show that they were serious, BP fired several of them. So much for that.

Of course, a little further down in the Interim Report that was released that day, the company admits that it had failed to replace a dangerous "blowdown drum" that collects flammable liquids when the system over pressurizes. It was the blowdown drum that overflowed, causing the explosion.

New information has now been released showing that it would have been difficult for the workers to take corrective action because
Alarms that should have warned BP Texas City refinery operators that they were overflowing a tower with dangerous hydrocardons did not sound in the critical hours and minutes before a fatal explosion, federal investigators said today.
And that's not all:
In addition, a fluid level indicator in the tower malfunctioned, he said. That led the operators to believe that the amount of flammable fluid was normal, even decreasing, when, in fact, it was dangerously increasing.
These findings, announced today by investigators from the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, confirm a worker's statement obtained by the Houston Chronicle:
"The operators thought that the tower level was dropping according to their indications," said the worker, who asked not to be named.

Level indicators inside the isomerization unit's raffinate splitter tower were likely malfunctioning, the source said.

But the operator working in the control room did not suspect the malfunctions because the computers were showing fluctuating levels, all within a normal range, as opposed to the level being stuck at one place, the source said.

"It appeared to be working correctly," the worker said.
BP's right. The whole thing is 'deeply distrubing' and gets more disturbing every day.

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