British oil company fined R28,3 million after refinery explosion

British oil company fined R28,3 million after refinery explosion

An oil company in the United Kingdom (UK), Essar Oil, has been fined R28,3 million after pleading guilty to breaching health and safety regulations, which resulted in an explosion in 2013 at one of its refineries.

The explosion at the Stanlow refinery in Ellesmere Port in Cheshire, caused more than R342,6 million in damages, but luckily there were no injuries.

The Liverpool Crown Court in England heard that while there were no injuries, the blast was caused due to the company’s negligence. On top of the fine, the court ordered that Essar Oil UK also pay the legal fees of the complainant – the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Great Britain’s independent regulator – which amount to nearly R1 million.

The HSE reported the incident to the European Union as a major accident, under Schedule 7 of the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations 1999, after its investigation into the accident found that the company failed to comply with three main health and safety measures.

First, a safety-critical valve was ordered and installed incorrectly, after which Essar failed to correctly validate its operating.

Second, the company did not adequately assess the installation of a new safety-critical trip by failing to recognise the system had a bypass line, which defeated the trip’s operation.

Third, Essar’s policy is to isolate main fuel lines to the furnace, but hydrocarbons entered the furnace via a secondary fuel line, which had not been isolated when shut down

Joanne Eccles, principal inspector at HSE, says: “The industry should take notice of this case. There were no injuries, but mistakes were made and could have been prevented.”

Local news agencies reported that an Essar spokesman said the company accepted responsibility from the outset for the incident and that “measures were put in place to ensure it could not happen again”.

Essar Oil UK falls under the umbrella of the Indian conglomerate group, Essar Global Fund Limited, which controls a number of world-class assets diversified across the core sectors of energy, infrastructure, services and metals and mining.

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Charleen Clarke
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