Monday, August 01, 2005

Another Day, Another Explosion at BP

So what else is new?

Another explosion rocked the Texas City BP plant last Thursday night -- the same plant that exploded killing 15 workers and injuring 170 last March. No one was injured, although the U.S. Chemical Safety Board sent two investigators in to determine the cause. The CSB is also investigating the March explosion.

This time the problem seems to be installation of the wrong type of pipe:
Installation of the wrong type of steel pipe contributed to the Thursday night explosion at BP’s Texas City refinery, company officials said.

A section of carbon steel pipe was installed during a maintenance shutdown at the Resid Hyrotreating Unit in February, spokesman Ronnie Chappell said.

The pipe should have been chromium alloy steel pipe, the company said.

Investigators were trying to determine whether BP employees or contractors did the work, Chappell said.

Contractors do most such maintenance work in the industry.

“The investigation team will review the February 2005 RHU maintenance effort in order to determine how the mistake occurred and what steps can be taken to prevent a recurrence,” BP said in a prepared statement.

The failed line is between a compressor and heat exchanger on the RHU, Chappell said.

High-pressured gas, primarily hydrogen, was released when the pipe broke, U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board officials said in a statement.
The United Steelworkers of America, which represents the workers at the plant, were none too happy with the state of safety at the company:
United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo W. Gerard said today that yesterday’s explosion at BP’s Texas City facility – the fifth serious accident there in recent years – “raises grave doubts about the company’s commitment to taking the urgent steps necessary to make that refinery safer for our members and the Texas City community.”

Yesterday’s explosion came on the heels of a massive explosion at the facility on
March 24 that killed 15 contract workers. Ever since the March accident, the USW has been pressing BP to disclose crucial information that it says is essential for improving safety for both its members and the community.

"If BP spent as much time working on safety as it does on blaming workers and stonewalling our union on information we need to address the scope of the problem, we’d be seeing real progress instead of more explosions," said Gary Beevers, Director of USW Region 6.
And in one of the understatements of the year,
"We are very concerned that there has been another explosion," said Carolyn Merritt, chairman of the CSB in Washington. "The first thing that goes through your mind is that these may be indicators that there are some systemic problems at this facility."
May be....