Processing Magazine

Settlement ends first BP explosion trial

September 18, 2007

The first trial stemming from the deadly explosion at BP PLC''s Texas City refinery ended in a settlement recently, according to the Associated Press. 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—began Sept. 5. It was the only one of hundreds of lawsuits from the blast to reach the courtroom. BP declined to provide details on the suit. More than 1,600 other suits have been settled and about 1,200 are pending. Before the latest settlement, the explosion cost the London oil company at least $2 billion in compensation payouts, repairs and lost profit. The explosion at the plant, located about 40 miles southeast of Houston, 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. The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, one of several agencies that probed the accident, found BP fostered bad management at the plant and that cost-cutting moves by BP were factors in the explosion.