BP Report: Four Managers Accountable for Texas City

A February internal report commissioned by top BP brass concluded that four members of management should be held accountable for the March 2005 Texas City refinery blast that killed 15 workers and injured 180 others.

The confidential report – dubbed the “Management Accountability Project” and created by a team of BP executives and legal counsel – asserted that the four men “failed to perform their management accountabilities in significant ways.” The team called on BP to “seek ways to conclude their employment relationships on fair and just terms, in a timely manner.”

The BP team developed four accountability tiers, with Tier 1 representing the highest level of accountability. The team examined the accountability of a number of managers but concluded that only four individuals fell into Tier 1:

  • Mike Hoffman, vice president, refining and marketing.
  • Pat Gower, regional vice president, U.S. refining.
  • Don Parus, Texas City refinery manager.
  • Willie Willis, manufacturing delivery leader for the Texas City West Plant and manager of the isomerization unit, where the blast occurred.

While Hoffman, Gower and Parus “held [BP Group] leadership posts” and Willis “was a Level E manager,” the report justified Willis' inclusion by noting that Willis was being groomed as “a potential future refinery manager and group leader.”

In a separate report, the team placed John Manzoni, chief executive of BP's refining and marketing segment, in Tier 2, but stopped short of calling for Manzoni's termination.

“Process safety did not have the same priority, at least, as commercial issues for [Manzoni], and there were important performance gaps from a management accountability perspective concerning his actions (or inactions),” the team wrote. “ ... While it is evident that this did not contribute to the fundamental root causes for the [isomerization unit] disaster, it is not simply hindsight to suggest that John should have taken more steps to consider and mitigate the risks long before this disaster occurred.”

Employee Accountability “Should Not Be Overlooked”

While the Management Accountability Project report focused on management's role in the Texas City disaster, it also reiterated BP's public assertion that the mistakes of production-level employees caused the Texas City explosion.

The report noted that BP terminated six refinery workers “who were most directly accountable” for the Texas City explosion. The management accountability team members wrote that they are “in full agreement” with those firings.

“It should not be overlooked that serious mistakes and failures were at the root of the explosion for which the ISOM staff clearly is responsible,” the report stated. “BP's management, however, was ultimately responsible for assuring the appropriate priorities were in place, adequate resources were provided and clear accountabilities were established for the safe operation of the [Texas City] refinery.”

The Chemical Safety and Investigation Board (CSB), in its final investigation report, concluded that "organizational and safety deficiencies at all levels" of BP caused the Texas City catastrophe. For an in-depth analysis of the CSB report, read "Anatomy of a Tragedy" in the May issue of OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS. (To view the article, click here.)

Report Confidential Until Now

Attorney Brent Coon, who is serving as lead counsel for the litigation against BP, recently posted the heretofore confidential report on a Web site – http://www.texascityexplosion.com – that is dedicated to the legal aftermath of the BP Texas City explosion.

The cover of the BP report makes it clear that the report was to have a “limited distribution” and that it was “for internal use only.” On April 18, however, Judge Susan Criss of the 212th Judicial District Court of Galveston, Texas, ruled that the Management Accountability Project report was not confidential, and BP failed in its efforts to appeal the decision.

When contacted by OccupationalHazards.com, BP spokesman Neil Chapman declined to comment on the report.

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