According to the CSB report, BP failed to “implement or heed all the safety recommendations regarding the blowdown drums before the blast” (CSB, 2005). Earlier reports and safety studies showed that BP was aware of the danger lurking in blowdown drums. From 1991, Amoco had proposed the removal of the blowdown drums that vented into the atmosphere.
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However, the company did not implement the proposal due to budget constraints. OSHA had also notified Amoco of the unsafe design of such pressure releasing system. There had been several proposals to change the blowdown drums venting into the atmosphere. However, when BP took over, it remained focused on cost-cutting measures such that any safety recommendations were of limited concerns (CSB, 2005).
Blowdown drums and stack work by accepting “the mixed liquid, and or vapour hydrocarbons from venting relief and blowdown valves during unit upsets or following a unit shutdown” (CSB, 2005). Normally, remnant hydrocarbon vapours separate themselves from the liquid and rise to the top of the stack and escape to the atmosphere.
However, any heavy hydrocarbon vapours cool and fall to the bottom of the blowdown drum for subsequent collection. The problem is that, this system of discharging waste was dangerous according to the industry standards. Instead, the industry standards recommend that companies should discharge any waste direct into a sewer.
BP also knew that the leftovers that pass through the blowdown drum were highly inflammable materials, and thus, the resulting explosion could be extremely dangerous. In addition, blowdown drums are potential sources of hazard. Despite all the recommendations of 1991, 1995, 1997, 2002 and 2004, BP did not take any corrective measures.
The design system of the blowdown drum increased its usages. However, BP failed to carry out necessary changes to the system. Specifically, the company “failed to replace the internal baffles, decommissioning the quench system, and adding more inlets, which possibly reduced its effectiveness” (CSB, 2005).
Most reports have indicated that BP ought to have installed flare systems or closed relief systems. These systems considerably reduce effects of such incidence.
There are a number of reports and recommendations to suggest that BP knew of risks associated with the blowdown drums that vented into the atmosphere. The company also knew that the system was a source of danger to its refinery and the surrounding environment.
For instance, BP Texas City Refinery safety standards of 1977 stated “the industry standards did not permit new blowdown stacks, and BP ought to have connected the blowdown drums to closed systems or flares when the operations of the company outgrew existing facilities, or when it made major modifications to the units” (CSB, 2005).
There were subsequent changes to the blowdown drums since 1986. These changes were major replacements that increased the capacity of the blowdown drum. However, BP did not connect the system to any safe disposal unit like a flare.
There is also evidence that, in the year 2002, BP engineers recommended connection of the discharge from the relief valves to a flare in an effort to conserve the environment. However, the company did not initiate any changes.
BP ought to have implemented a well designed flare system that could contain hazardous discharged liquid in the blowdown drum and burn flammable vapour. This had the potential of eliminating all dangerous discharges into the atmosphere. Flare systems have been effective means of controlling disposal in the oil industry.
CSB 2005, BP Texas City: Final Investigation Report, CSB, Texas.
Krauss, C 2010, ‘Oil Spill’s Blow to BP’s Image May Eclipse Costs’, Times, vol.1 no. 1, pp. 1-3.
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Murray, B and Trevor, H 2010, ‘BP and Public Issues (Mis)Management’, Ivey Business Journal, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1-3.