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BBC News: Shell fined for plant’s gas leak (*Bill Campbell’s concerns about Shell’s TFA safety culture well founded)

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Shell says it has spent £5.5m on improvements

Wednesday, 12 March 2008, 18:38 GMT 

Oil company Shell has been fined £266,681 after it admitted blame for an accident in which 20 tonnes of explosive gas released into the air.

Isobutane (LPG) was mixed with toxic hydrogen fluoride (HF) when it escaped from a corroded pipe at the Stanlow plant in Ellesmere Port.

Shell admitted failing to comply with Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations in the 2003 incident.

The Health and Safety Executive said the leak was a “major incident”.

At Warrington Crown Court the firm was also ordered to pay £37,131 costs.

Shell had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing at Chester Crown Court.

The court had heard that the gas dispersed without causing injury but that had it exploded, there would have been multiple casualties.

Judge Roger Dutton said in his ruling that a fine of £400,000 would have been appropriate if Shell had not pleaded guilty.

The company said it had invested £5.5m on improvements to the HF Alkylation plant since the incident.

After the sentencing, Health and Safety Executive inspector Alan Graham said: “This was a major incident which placed many company employees and others at risk from an escape of a flammable toxic gas.

“Although there was no ignition on this occasion, in different circumstances there could have been an explosion.

Gas cloud

“It was the Health and Safety Executive’s case that the gas escape was caused by Shell’s failure to properly inspect and maintain the pipe.

“This failure caused a jet of gas, which formed a cloud, which was seen to drift 10 to 15 metres above the site. The gas cloud was kept under observation until it dispersed.”

Stanlow general manager Yuri Sebregts said: “Changes have been made to the plant and procedures to ensure that the problem will not re-occur.

“Nevertheless we regret the incident, and the learning from it has been noted and shared with other producers.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/7292898.stm

Related BBC News article…

BBC News: Shell admit blame over toxic leak 
 
Friday, 22 February 2008, 15:40 GMT

Oil giant Shell admitted they were to blame over a leak of highly explosive gas at a Cheshire refinery which could have caused major casualties.

About 20 tonnes of the gas escaped from a corroded pipe at the Stanlow plant in Ellesmere Port in 2003.

The company pleaded guilty to failing to comply with health and safety regulations at Chester Crown Court.

No-one was injured in the incident but the judge was told if the gas exploded, it would have caused major devastation.

Judge Dutton adjourned the hearing for sentencing at a later date.

Simon Parrington, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said: “The escape of gas was caused by Shell’s failure to properly inspect and maintain the pipe.

“In difference circumstances the consequences of this incident could have been very serious indeed.

“The issue we are concerned with is the toxicity of the gas. It is lethal and could have caused many fatalities.”

The 6in pipe had been neglected for years, Mr Parrington said.

He said: “The company failed in its duty to take the necessary measures to avoid a serious accident.

“This is a company which has posted £13.7bn in profits and it has huge resources at its disposal.”

A HSE inspection of the entire Stanlow site after the incident found no further cause for concern.

Graham Wells, defending Shell UK, said: “The defendant accepts that this was a serious matter.

Shell’s ‘regret’

“The process is one which uses hazardous chemicals and the escape happened because the pipe was corroded.

“Pipes should not corrode and this is the basis of the guilty plea.”

In a statement, Stanlow’s general manager Yuri Sebregts said: “We responded quickly after the event and since then we have co-operated fully with the HSE in their investigation.

“Changes have been made to the plant and procedures to ensure that the problem will not re-occur.

“Nevertheless, we regret the incident and our learning from it has been noted and shared with other producers.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/7259394.stm

*Headline comment in brackets added by John Donovan

See also…

http://www.bloggernews.net/114415

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