BP’s failure to inspect and test “deadleg” pipe at its Cherry Point petroleum refinery in Blaine, WA, led to an explosion and blaze at the facility in February—a “willful” management violation that has drawn several citations and an $81,500 fine.
The state’s Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) cited BP for six violations of workplace safety and health rules related to management of pipeline and refinery processes.
WA State Department of Ecology / King 5 TV
|Firefighters douse a massive blaze that erupted after a corroded pipe ruptured in February at BP’s Cherry Point petroleum refinery in Blaine, WA. The facility is one of the largest on the West Coast.|
The citations include one willful violation that carries a $65,000 fine. A willful violation is the most significant civil classification that can be issued, reserved for violations “committed with intentional disregard or plain indifference or substitution of judgment with respect to worker safety and health regulations.”
BP Cherry Point is the third-largest refinery on the West Coast, producing 225,000 barrels of oil per day—about 20 percent of Washington’s gasoline needs.
Blast and Fire
L&I began its inspection after an explosion and fire shut down the refinery for three months. One employee was nearby when the fire erupted, but he was able to escape safely.
According to L&I, the fire occurred when a corroded “deadleg” pipe ruptured. Deadlegs are pipes that aren’t often used but still must be monitored for integrity, in case they are needed to carry material used in the refining process.
The willful violation alleges that BP failed to follow generally accepted engineering practices for inspecting and testing process piping, including deadleg piping circuits.
The five additional violations were for failing to comply with Process Safety Management standards, the requirements for managing hazards associated with processes that use highly hazardous chemicals.
Spokesmen for BP told reporters that the company had replaced all piping involved in the accident, increased the monitoring points along the new system, and inspected all lines in similar service.
The company has until Sept. 13 to appeal the citation, and BP spokesman Bill Kidd told the Bellingham Business Journal that an appeal was likely.
“We don’t believe in that characterization of the quality of our inspection program,” Kidd said.
Kidd said the refinery had installed two wireless devices on the pipe to allow for continuous remote monitoring. Unfortunately, the devices were not placed in locations that allowed workers to discover the breakdown before the pipe ruptured, he said.
“We did not catch this in time,” Kidd told the newspaper. “But we did not expect to have this kind of incident.”