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BP Plant Explosion Settlement Reached

January 08, 2008
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According to the Associated Press, eight men reached a settlement with BP recently in the second civil trial involving injuries in the deadly explosion at the company''s Texas City refinery.

The trial over the 2005 accident -- which killed 15 people, injured 170 and was the worst accident in the gas and chemical industry in almost 15 years -- ended after nine days of testimony. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

BP PLC also settled in the midst of a September civil trial involving four injured workers. A month later, the oil giant agreed to plead guilty to a felony federal environmental crime, pay a $50 million fine and serve three years on probation to settle a Justice Department probe.

Ernest Cannon, the plaintiffs'' lead lawyer, said he was glad to have reached an accord for his clients but would have liked to take the case to a verdict.

The eight plaintiffs said they were relieved the trial ended early but were glad they got the chance to testify.

They contended that BP valued profits over safety and put off upgrades and repairs amid budget cuts during the years leading up to the tragedy. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board reached the same conclusion in March after a two-year investigation.

Doug Brantley, 32, testified that he has suffered back and knee problems since he was blown from his feet in the blast, said in a story for Tuesday''s online edition of the Houston Chronicle.

BP acknowledged budgets were cut in the late 1990s and early 2000s amid low oil prices and sagging refining margins but insists there is no link between the cuts and the explosion.

BP lawyers questioned whether the company was responsible for the plaintiffs'' injuries. Most of the eight men didn''t see a doctor about blast-related injuries until they had first consulted with attorneys a year or more after the explosion.

The explosion rocked the refinery and sent flames and black smoke billowing into the sky over the 1,200-acre site located about 40 miles southeast of Houston. About 1,800 people worked at the plant, which included 30 refinery units, but BP officials don''t know exactly how many were there at the time.

The BP plant, one of five BP refineries in North America, at the time produced about 433,000 barrels of crude oil a day, 30 percent of BP''s North American gas supply and 3 percent of the U.S. supply.

The explosion occurred after a piece of equipment called a blowdown drum overfilled with highly flammable liquid hydrocarbons. The excess liquid and vapor hydrocarbons were then vented from the drum and ignited as the isomerization unit -- a device that boosts the octane in gasoline -- started up. Alarms and gauges that were supposed to warn of the overfilled equipment didn''t work properly.

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