BP Texas City to pay record clean air penalty

BP’s Texas City refinery will pay a record $15 million civil fine for violating the Clean Air Act in three different incidents in 2004 and 2005.

The fine is not related to either the deadly March 2005 accident that killed 15 and injured 170 more. Nor is it tied to a lengthy, unauthorized release that occured earlier this year.

Rather it deals with three other events that lead to the release of chemicals and orders of shelter-in-place in Texas City:

  • In August 2005, a stream of highly pressurized liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons leaked from a corroded valve in the refinery’s Cat Feed Hydrotreater Unit. Since 1983, BP repeatedly increased the velocity of fluid flowing through the valve without adequately evaluating the effects of the increased flow on the unit’s maintenance needs.
  • In July 2005, a carbon-steel piping elbow in the refinery’s Resid Hydrotreater Unit ruptured and caused a major fire. The carbon-steel piping elbow had been incorrectly installed by a maintenance contractor in a location that required a stronger metal in order to withstand the existing operating temperatures and pressures.
  • In March 2004, a corroded 20-inch diameter pipe at the refinery’s Ultraformer No. 4 process unit ruptured and caused a major fire that burned for several hours. Corrosion, which had gone undetected, reduced the pipe-wall thickness to the point where it ruptured at normal operating temperatures and pressures.

The deal was reached with the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s both the largest penalty ever assessed for civil violations of the Clean Air Act’s chemical accident prevention regulations, also known as the risk management program regulations, and the largest civil penalty recovered for Clean Air Act violations at an individual facility.

The settlement brings total federal criminal, civil and administrative fines from the Texas City refinery to about $137 million. In addition, BP Products has performed approximately $1.4 billion in corrective actions and the company will spend an estimated additional $500 million to improve safety at the refinery as required by settlements with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.