BP Products Refinery Case Study

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On March 23, 2005, at 1.20pm the tragic explosion occurred at the BP Products refinery located in Texas City, Texas. The blast occurred at the isomerisation or ISOM unit which produces materials to boost the octane rating of gasoline. It happened during the start-up of the ISOM unit when a raffinate splitter tower was overfilled while the pressure relief devices were opened, resulting in a flammable liquid geyser from a blowdown stack. This release of liquid and vapour led to an explosion that caused the deaths of 15 employees and injured 180 others, many of them seriously. All of the fatalities occurred in or around the portable trailers, located close to the blowdown drum. The BP Texas City facility, which covers 1200 acres, is the third-largest oil refinery in the United States. The explosion affected homes and business up to three-quarters of a…show more content…
The start-up procedure required that the level control valve be used to send liquid from the tower to storage units. However, this valve was closed and the tower was filled for over three hours without any outflow from the tower. This led to flooding of the tower and high pressure generating, which activated relief valves that discharged flammable liquid to the blowdown system. The day-shift supervisor left before 11am, during the start-up procedure thus leaving an inexperienced operator in control, contrary to BPs procedures showing a situational violation. This left one control board operator in charge of three refinery units including the ISOM unit which needed close attention. BP had eliminated a second board operator due to budget cuts in 1999. The blowdown drum and stack had then overfilled with flammable liquid, which led to a geyser-like release of flammable liquid and vapour out of the stack, which unfortunately came into contact with a source of ignition when a car parked 23-feet away backfired, resulting in the

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