LONDON | Mon Jun 20, 2011 12:25pm EDT
(Reuters) – A British court ordered Royal Dutch Shell’s UK unit to pay 1.242 million pounds ($2 million) in fines and legal costs for a fire at its Bacton gas terminal in 2008 which cut more than a tenth of UK gas supply.
A leak of highly flammable hydrocarbon liquid caused the explosion and fire at a waste water plant in which nobody was killed or seriously injured only by “good fortune,” according to Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Shell UK was found guilty of seven offences related to environmental and safety regulation, brought forward jointly by the HSE and the Environment Agency (EA) last December.
“What happened was completely unacceptable and falls well below the standards that we set for ourselves. Safety is our company’s priority and so an incident like this is deeply disappointing,” Shell UK said in a statement on Monday.
The rescue work released 850 tonnes of fire water and fire fighting foam into the North Sea, after Shell failed to close the sea gate until around one hour after the fire broke out, Norwich crown court heard.
“The explosion could have led to a major environmental disaster as other highly flammable materials were stored nearby,” said the EA’s local Environment Manager Marcus Sibley.
Staff were returning from the plant to the main offices to prepare for shift handovers, sparing injuries or fatalities, the two authorities said.
Shell has since invested 3 million pounds into reviewing safety operations and a new waste water treatment plant will be built with additional safety features, the company said.
The Bacton terminal, around 30 km north-east of Norwich, east England, receives gas from North Sea fields and through a subsea pipeline from the Netherlands.
(Reporting by Karolin Schaps)