Carboline Named in BP Refinery Suit


BP is suing protective coatings giant Carboline and four other companies, alleging that steel they provided and fireproofed for a multibillion-dollar refinery project is defective and causing property damage.

BP Products North America Inc. filed the federal lawsuit Dec. 3 against Carboline Co., of St. Louis, MO; Trinity Steel Fabricators Inc., of Houston, TX; Schuff Steel Co., of Phoenix, AZ; Tecon Services Inc., of Houston; and Alfred Miller Contracting Co., of Lake Charles, LA. The suit involves a modernization project at BP's Whiting Refinery in Whiting, IN.

Trinity Steel Fabricators and Schuff Steel were both contracted to provide the structural steel coated with Carboline’s fireproofing product, Pyrocrete 241. Alfred Miller Contracting and Tecon Services were subcontracted to provide the fireproofing services for the steel.

Bill Moran, the president and CEO of Trinity Steel, declined comment Wednesday (Jan. 2). Representatives of the other companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to the complaint, BP required thousands of tons of new structural steel for the modernization project. Some of this steel was coated with a protective layer of Pyrocrete 241 fireproofing material, which is now degrading prematurely and causing damage to BP’s property, the suit says.

BP claims that it has suffered damages in excess of $75,000, including costs incurred to investigate, conduct analysis, and perform additional testing; costs incurred to repair and coat the defective Pyrocrete; and property damage, loss of use, and increased future maintenance costs.

BP's Allegations

BP alleges that the coating has degraded prematurely because of defects in the application and preparation of the Pyrocrete to the steel—and possibly because of defects in the Pyrocrete itself.

The complaint states that the product is exhibiting problems and defects that include:

  • Surface softness, crumbling, and rounding of original square corners;
  • Discoloration;
  • Low hardness and compressive strength;
  • Delamination and/or flaking of surface material(s);
  • Cracking, pitting, and splitting; and
  • Loss of material cover (reduced thickness, voids, cracks, and other discontinuities).

“BP is remediating the damage caused by the defective Pyrocrete and defective preparation and application of the Pyrocrete, and BP will have to continue to remediate the defective conditions and property damage at great cost to BP,” the company said in its complaint.

An investigation conducted by BP claims that the subcontractors failed to properly mix, prepare, and apply the Pyrocrete; applied the product with gaps in the underlying lathe in violation of the contract’s plans and specifications; and “overworked” and/or “skim-coated” the Pyrocrete during application.

BP’s investigation also claims that the contractors failed to supply properly prepared structural steel and that the manufacturer’s product is defective.

BP provided “timely notice” of the problems to the defendants, all of which have refused to accept responsibility, the complaint states.

Causes for Action

BP alleges a total of nine counts against the companies. Trinity Steel, Schuff Steel, Alfred Miller, and Carboline each face two counts, and Tecon faces one.


BP claims to have suffered $75,000 in damages related to investigating and replacing the allegedly defective materials.

Trinity Steel and Schuff Steel are accused of breach of contract and breach of express warranty.

Breach-of-contract counts for both companies state that they were, and are, responsible to BP for the work of subcontractors in preparing and applying the Pyrocrete to the structural steel they each supplied. BP alleges that both companies breached the contract when subcontractors failed to prepare and apply the Pyrocrete to the structural steel in accordance with the purchase orders and/or industry standards.

According to the complaint, Trinity Steel and Schuff Steel both breached their warranties when they provided BP with structural steel that, on information and belief, had Pyrocrete that was not prepared and/or applied correctly.

A breach-of-express-warranty count against Alfred Miller states that a contract between Trinity Steel and Alfred Miller included an express warranty that runs from Alfred Miller to BP. The lawsuit alleges that Alfred Miller breached the warranty when it supplied BP with Pyrocrete that was not prepared or applied according to the requirements and when Alfred Miller supplied BP with Pyrocrete precast flange caps that were not manufactured to the requirements of the purchase orders.

Alfred Miller, Tecon, and Carboline each face separate counts of common-law negligence, according to the complaint. BP alleges that Alfred Miller and Tecon both had a duty to BP to prepare and apply Pyrocrete to the structural steel in a “good and workmanlike manner,” and Carboline had a duty to BP to manufacture a product that was not defective.

BP claims that the three companies all had “superior knowledge” about the product, that it was foreseeable to the companies that premature degradation of the Pyrocrete would cause property damage and require replacement, and that the companies “faced a minimal burden to guard against such defects.”

Carboline is also facing a count for breach of implied warranty of merchantability. BP alleges that Carboline breached its implied warranty by selling Pyrocrete that was not merchantable and not fit for the ordinary purposes in which it was used. 

Pyrocrete 241

According to the suit, BP picked Pyrocrete based on recommendations from Carboline and the product’s marketing material.

Carboline Pyrocrete

St. Louis-based Carboline Co. calls its Pyrocrete 241 “the preferred cementitious fireproofing material in the marketplace for over 30 years.”

In its product data sheets, Carboline describes Pyrocrete 241 as a single powder component that is recommended for fire protection of structural steel, bulkheads, and upgrading the fire resistance of existing concrete.

Product information from Carboline calls Pyrocrete “the preferred cementitious fireproofing material in the marketplace for over 30 years.”

Carboline said the product does not require an additional coating system, resists cracking and impact damage, prevents disbondment, and requires less material for projects.

Whiting Refinery Modernization Project

BP has invested several billion dollars to modernize its Whiting Refinery to increase its heavy oil processing capability by reconfiguring the largest of three crude distillation units and adding new coking capacity and associated processing units.

The modernization project is the largest, most complex refining project undertaken in BP’s recent history, according to the company. The project includes installing 380 miles of pipe; 1,200 pieces of major equipment; 600 shop-fabricated modules; and 50,000 tons of steel.

Construction began in May 2008; as of August 2012, BP reported that the project was about 70 percent complete.


Tagged categories: BP; Carboline; Coating Application; Fire-resistive coatings; Heat-resistive coatings; High-performance coatings; Lawsuits; Protective Coatings; Structural steel

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