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The Wall Street Journal: Timeline: BP’s Woes

March 20, 2007 12:39 p.m.

BP is struggling to put behind it a series of problems in the U.S., including a refinery explosion in Texas that killed 15 people in March 2005 and an oil spill in Alaska discovered earlier this year. Below is a timeline of the energy giant’s woes.

2002

June: BP agrees to a $45.8 million settlement with the state of California, resolving allegations that dozens of service stations it now owns in the state didn’t make required safety upgrades.

2005

March: A deadly explosion at BP’s Texas City, Texas, refinery kills 15 workers, all of them employees of contractors doing work at the plant. It was the third fatal accident at the petrochemical and refining facility in the past year and the deadliest U.S. petro-chemical accident in 15 years.

April: The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration puts BP on a safety watch list.

May: BP backtracks on an earlier statement that blamed managers and other workers for the March blast at its Texas refinery.

July: BP’s Gulf of Mexico Thunder Horse facility, the largest oil and gas producing platform in the world, is left listing after the passage of hurricane Dennis. Company sets aside $700 million in compensation for the families of Texas City victims.

August: The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board calls on BP to set up an independent panel to review safety across its U.S. refining operations. Former Secretary of State James Baker is eventually tapped to lead the report.

September: BP agreed to pay workplace-safety regulators $21.4 million in fines for scores of “egregious” safety violations tied to the March 23 explosion. The fine is the largest industrial-accident settlement of its kind.

December: BP says it will spend $1 billion over the next five years to improve the refinery in Texas City, including replacing equipment and beefing up maintenance programs found lacking at the facility.

2006

March: Several thousand barrels of crude spill from a ruptured pipeline at Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay field.

April: U.S. environmental regulators conduct a criminal investigation into BP’s management of pipelines in Alaska’s North Slope. BP said it has found another pipeline break caused by corrosion at a BP-operated facility on the Alaskan North Slope. OSHA fines BP $2.4 million for alleged safety violations in its Ohio refinery. In May, the agency later opened an investigation after a contract worker suffered severe burning.

June: Robert Malone succeeds Ross Pillari as head of BP’s U.S. unit. Federal investigators charge BP traders with illegally manipulating the U.S. propane market in February 2004. Simultaneous probes investigate potential manipulation cases in crude-oil and unleaded-gasoline markets.

August: BP shuts down its Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska following the discovery of a corroded pipeline and small leak there. Federal investigators probe changes made to a report commissioned by Alaska state officials on BP’s operations there after the oil giant complained the report was overly negative.

September: BP says it had spilled about 1,000 barrels of a refined petroleum product into the port of Long Beach, Calif., the latest in a series of environmental, safety and compliance lapses in the U.S. A House committee grills BP executives on problems at Prudhoe Bay, the first of a series of harsh congressional sessions on the matter. BP will further postpone the start-up of its long-delayed Thunder Horse oil field in the Gulf of Mexico.

October: The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, a federal agency, says cost cutting by senior executives led to the Texas refinery explosion. BP announces it is replacing Steve Marshall, the head of its Alaska division.

November: BP makes a last-minute settlement in a civil lawsuit stemming from the Texas explosion, including donating $32 million to institutions to aid health care, worker training and safety and education in Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee. The plaintiff received an undisclosed financial settlement. Indiana workplace-safety regulators propose fining BP about $384,000 for a series of violations at the company’s Whiting, Ind., refinery.

December: The Commodity Futures Trading Commission informs BP it intends to bring a civil enforcement action against the company over its trading in unleaded-gasoline futures in October 2002.

2007

Jan. 12: BP names Tony Hayward CEO to succeed John Browne, who will retire at the end of July. On Jan. 16, BP is expected to release the results of an independent review of its U.S. refinery operations.

Jan. 16: An independent panel set up to review BP’s refinery operations in the U.S. said company goals, such as cost-cutting, often overrode safety concerns at its plants.

March 20: The CSB issues its final report on the Texas City incident, affirming its belief that BP failed to heed safety warnings. Notable in this report is criticism of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which the CSB says has “an insufficient number of qualified inspectors” to guarantee safety at refineries.

Source: WSJ.com research

 

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