The oil industry has been urged to ‘take notice’ after a gas explosion at a refinery in Ellesmere Port.
Oil company Essar Oil (UK) Ltd has been fined £1.65m following the incident at its Stanlow refinery.
No injuries but vast damage
The blast happened in the early hours of November 14, 2013. While there were no injuries, it did cause internal structures to collapse leading to damage totalling more than £20m, Liverpool Crown Court heard.
When the main distillation unit was started up, extremely flammable hydrocarbons managed to enter an unignited furnace.
The heat from a nearby furnace heated up the hydrocarbons causing the explosion that destroyed the furnace. This also led to a number of fires that the Fire Service had to bring under control.
The incident was reported to the EU as a major accident under Schedule 7 of the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations 1999.
Three major failings
Essar Oil had not taken the necessary measures to prevent or mitigate a major accident, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found.
It revealed 3 main failings. The first was that a safety critical valve was ordered and installed incorrectly. Essar had also failed to correctly validate its operation. Secondly, the company hadn’t properly assessed the installation of a new safety critical trip, failing to realise the system had a by-pass line that defeated the trip’s operation.
Finally, its policy to isolate main fuel lines to the furnace didn’t take into account that hydrocarbons could enter the furnace via a secondary fuel line that hadn’t been isolated when shut down.
Essar Oil (UK) Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the Control of Major Hazards Regulations 1999 and was fined £1,650,000 with costs of £57,644.80.
HSE Principal Inspector Joanne Eccles said: “The industry should take notice of this case. There were no injuries but mistakes were made and could have been prevented.”
Source: Health and Safety Executive