News

Valero Energy fined £5m after refinery explosion kills four

By on

An eight-year investigation into an explosion at a Pembrokeshire oil refinery that killed four workers has culminated at court in a £5m fine for Valero Energy.


Dennis Riley, 52, Robert Broome, 48, Andrew Jenkins, 33, and Julie Jones, 54 died after a storage tank exploded at the site in 2011. A fifth worker, Andrew Philips, also sustained major injuries.

Swansea Crown Court heard how on 2 June 2011, the five workers were emptying a tank in the Amine Recovery Unit using a vacuum tanker when the incident took place shortly after 6pm. B&A Contracts Ltd, a long-term contractor at the refinery, was carrying out the work, with support from another contractor, Hertel.

A fireball resulting from the explosion severed a five-tonne tank roof, which shot 55 metres out, hitting a butane storage sphere. The roof narrowly missed a pipe track where flammable materials were carried.

The Pembrokeshire oil refinery operated by Valero Energy after the blast occurred in 2011. Photograph: HSE

Ignition of a highly flammable atmosphere within the tank, during what should have been a routine emptying operation in preparation for further cleaning and maintenance, was the likely cause of the explosion, said HSE.

Its investigation also found ‘long-standing failures’ within the refinery safety management systems. As a result, the risks posed by flammable atmospheres inside the Amine Recovery Unit were not understood or controlled.

Valero Energy UK Ltd of Wood Street, London, which bought the refinery off Chevron Limited, was fined and ordered to pay costs of £1 million for breaches of sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

B&A Contracts Ltd of Hubberston Road, Pembrokeshire was also fined £120,000 and ordered to pay costs of £40,000.

Speaking after the final hearing on 6 June, investigating HSE inspector Andrew Knowles said: “This incident, which had devastating consequences for all of those involved, was entirely preventable. Many opportunities to take action to control risk were missed, that would have prevented the incident from occurring.

He added: "It is important to realise that the incident could have had even more serious consequences had the butane sphere or pipe track been damaged by the flying tank roof."

Detective Superintendent Anthony Griffiths said: “Officers from Dyfed-Powys Police worked closely with the Health and Safety Executive to support them in the very complex investigation to establish the cause of this tragic incident. We hope that the lessons learned ensure that a tragedy of this nature doesn’t happen again. Our thoughts remain with all the families involved.”

NEWS


iStock-monkeybusinessimages_LRGE-min.jpg

Employers play vital role in Covid sufferers’ recovery

By Belinda Liversedge on 30 July 2020

Employers are being urged to provide support for staff suffering from long-term health impacts of the virus when they return to work.



iStock-451303925-credit-Yuri_Arcurs .jpg

Blanket return to offices ‘risky strategy’, say lawyers

By Belinda Liversedge on 24 July 2020

Desk-based workers should return to offices from 1 August, as long as it is safe to do so, but employers who open their doors should be wary advise lawyers.



istock_95017409_xxlarge-credit-ir_stone-min.jpg

Flexible working must be 'day one right', says CIPD

By Belinda Liversedge on 22 July 2020

One in three office workers want to continue working from home after the coronavirus threat has passed, a survey has revealed.