You are on page 1of 24

BP Texas City Refinery

Fire & Explosion

March 23, 2005

Source courtesy: Internet

The USA's third-largest refinery, with a processing
capacity of 470,000 barrels per day of oil

Source courtesy: Internet

The explosion on Wednesday 23-03-2005,
afternoon at the BP (Research) plant in Texas
City, Texas, outside Houston, killed more than
14 people.
BP Texas City Fire & Explosion
• 14 fatalities and 170 injured;
• Biggest BP refinery covers 1200 acres
and produces11 million gallons of petrol a
• Third largest refinery in US;
• Fire and explosion occurred in the
isomerization unit of the refinery.
The Isomerization Process
• BP Isomerization unit:
– Isomerization process increases the Octane rating of
Gasoline by which straight chain HCs are converted
to branched chain HCs;
– Raffinate splitter tower separates light & heavy
gasoline components;
– Raffinate: the portion of the original liquid that remains
after the other components have been dissolved by a
– Raffanate consists of BTX, Hexane & Cycloheptane
and are highly flammable
Source courtesy: CSB Video animation
What happened?
• Raffinate splitter tower was overfilled with liquid
due to errors in instrumentation & flaws in start-
up procedures;
• The tower was over heated, pressurized and
pressure relief operated;
• HC flowed into the BD drum & stack;
• HC overflowed through top of BD stack forming
a pool below; and
• The vapour cloud formed resulted in a VCE.
The animated sequence of
CSB Animation Video

You can get this great video and animation from CSB ‘free of charge’ if you write
to them
BP Texas City Explosion
Before and After

Raffinate Splitter Blowdown Drum and ISOM Unit after explosion

Source courtesy: Internet

Source courtesy: Internet
Source courtesy: Internet
The devastating power of explosions!! It can virtually level anything. Only blast walls can
mitigate the effects. Source courtesy: Internet
Source courtesy: Internet
Firefighers and rescue personnel search the rubble for victims following an
explosion at the BP-Amoco plant in Texas City.
BP Texas City Explosion
BP Fatal Accident Investigation
The report identified four critical areas:

• Loss of Containment
• Raffinate splitter start-up
procedure and applicaton of
knowledge and skills
• Control of work and trailer
• Desgn and engineering of the
blowdown stack
BP Texas City Explosion
Baker Report
The report identified numerous failings in
equipment, risk management, staff
management, working culture at the site,
maintenance & inspection & general health &
safety assessments.
• BP management had not distinguished between
“occupational safety” & “process safety”
• Their metrics, incentives, and management
systems focused on measuring & managing
occupational safety & confused improving trends
in occupational safety statistics for a general
improvement in all types of safety.
• An employee survey showed that managers &
white collar workers had a rosier view of process
safety culture than blue collar operators and
maintenance techs.
BP Texas City Explosion
US Chemical Safety Board Report
An interim report cited serious
concerns about:
• The effectiveness of the safety
management system at BP Texas
• The effectiveness of BP North America’s
corporate safety oversight of it’s refining
• A corporate safety culture that may have
tolerated serious longstanding deviations
from good safety practice
The final report headlines two major
• Cost cutting and a ‘cheque book’
• Failure of all levels of BP management
including the board
What went wrong?
• BP Management over-looked warning
signs of a possible catastrophic accident;
• BP Management had a typical ‘Cheque-
Book mentality’;
• Antiquated equipment design;
• Siting of occupied trailers near ISOM unit;
• Human errors.
Source courtesy: CSB Video animation
Source courtesy: CSB Video animation
Fines & Warnings ignored!!
• The Occupational Safety and Health
Administration fined the refinery nearly $110,000
after two employees were burned to death by
superheated water in September 2004.
• Another explosion forced the evacuation of the
plant for several hours last March. Afterward,
OSHA fined the refinery $63,000 for 14 safety
violations, including problems with its emergency
shutdown system and employee training.
Key Lessons Learnt…
• Learn from organization memory;
• If no accident has occurred till today, that
does not mean that no accident is going to
• Monitor process safety performance using
appropriate indicators;
• Invest sufficient resources to correct
problems; and
• Maintain an open & trusting safety culture.
Key lessons learnt
• Ensure that non-essential personnel &
work trailers are located away from
hazardous process areas;
• Ensure equipment & procedures are
maintained up to date; and
• Carefully manage organizational changes
and budget decisions to ensure safety is
not compromised.