BP Says it Plans to Spend $1 Billion on Texas City Refinery

BP Products North America Inc. says it plans to modernize equipment and improve worker training at its troubled Texas City, Texas, refinery over the next 5 years as part of a $1 billion upgrade.

BP, which last week released a report containing the results of its internal investigation of the March 23 Texas City refinery explosion that killed 23 people and injured 170 others, says the company will implement a number of recommendations contained in the report, such as removing the antiquated blow down stacks that BP admits exacerbated the severity of the accident.

The company says it will install modern process control systems on major units at the refinery and transition to a more powerful maintenance management system. Also, a project team established to spearhead the improvements will "develop plans for reconfiguring and simplifying the operation" of the refinery, according to a statement issued by BP.

"The result will be a safe, reliable and highly efficient refinery capable of producing clean fuels that consumers are demanding," said Texas City site manager Colin Maclean.

According to BP, Maclean who was named manager of the Texas City refinery on May 17 has brought in new personnel from other BP facilities and reassigned other workers in an attempt to "strengthen the leadership team at the refinery."

Maclean "has simplified the organizational structure, clarified roles and responsibilities and put in place systems to improve communications and compliance with procedures," according to BP.

The company acknowledged in its investigation report that the refinery had developed a dysfunctional safety culture marked by poor communication and poor hazard awareness in the years leading up to the March 23 tragedy.

"We are creating an environment in which people know what they say matters, that they know what is expected of them and that they will deliver what is expected of them," Maclean said.

Among the changes BP has made at the Texas City refinery as a direct result of the March 23 tragedy, the company says it has removed all occupied trailers from potentially hazardous areas and has moved more than 400 employees to 100,000 square feet of newly leased office space in Texas City.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board and BP have said that locating mobile trailers so close to the blow down stack in the isomierzation unit the epicenter of the explosion greatly increased the number of deaths and injuries on March 23.

BP also says it has improved oversight by requiring supervisors to be present for all startups, shutdowns and other critical operations and by requiring written shift handovers. According to BP's investigation report, supervisors assigned to the isomerizatoin unit were not present to make sure that workers were following established procedures in the isomerization unit, which was in the midst of a startup when the explosion occurred.

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