March, 2005

This is a repeating event

200523MarAll DayBP Texas City Refinery Explosion 2005BP Texas City (US-TX)Lessons:Commitment & Culture,Compliance with Standards,Operating Procedures,Operational Integrity,Performance Indicators,Risk AssessmentIndustry:RefiningCountry:United StatesLanguage:ENLoC:Genuine release Origin: CSB Incident:VCEHazards:FlammableContributory Factors:Organized ProceduresImpact:HUMAN (On Site Fatalities)Effects:11 – 100 FatalitiesMaterial:HydrocarbonsTopics:Occupied Buildings


At approximately 1:20 p.m. on March 23, 2005, a series of explosions occurred at the BP Texas City refinery during the restarting of a hydrocarbon isomerization unit. Fifteen workers were killed and 180 others were injured. Many of the victims were in or around work trailers located near an atmospheric vent stack. The explosions occurred when a distillation tower flooded with hydrocarbons and was overpressurized, causing a geyser-like release from the vent stack.


1. BP Group Board did not provide effective oversight of the company’s safety culture and major accident prevention programs.

2. Senior executives:
• inadequately addressed controlling major hazard risk. Personal safety was measured, rewarded, and the primary focus, but the same emphasis was not put on improving process safety performance;
• did not provide effective safety culture leadership and oversight to prevent catastrophic accidents;
• ineffectively ensured that the safety implications of major organizational, personnel, and policy changes were evaluated;
• did not provide adequate resources to prevent major accidents; budget cuts impaired process safety performance at the Texas City refinery.

3. BP Texas City Managers did not:
• create an effective reporting and learning culture; reporting bad news was not encouraged. Incidents were often ineffectively investigated and appropriate corrective actions not taken.
• ensure that supervisors and management modeled and enforced use of up-to-date plant policies and procedures.
• incorporate good practice design in the operation of the ISOM unit.
• ensure that operators were supervised and supported by experienced, technically trained personnel during unit startup, an especially hazardous phase of operation; or that
• effectively incorporated human factor considerations in its training, staffing, and work schedule for operations personnel.

Image Credit: CSB


CSBUS Chemical Safety Board