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Valero fined £5m over 2011 oil refinery explosion

Valero Oil Refinery

TWO companies have been ordered to pay more than £6 million following an explosion at Pembroke oil refinery that killed four people.

Julie Jones, Dennis Riley, Robert Broome and Andrew Jenkins all died in the blast in June 2011.

A fifth man, Andrew Phillips, survived the blast but suffered life-changing injuries, after being “surrounded in flames”.

The explosion happened when flammable gases inside an oil storage tank ignited.

Valero Energy UK Ltd and B&A Contracts admitted health and safety charges in October last year and sentencing was deferred first to April of this year and subsequently to yesterday (Thursday, Jun 5).

At the time of the explosion, in 2011, the refinery was operated by Chevron. However, a deal had already been struck to transfer ownership to Valero Energy UK.

Valero Energy was indicted as successor in ownership to Chevron, even though it had no control over the site at the time of the incident.

That means that while Valero Energy UK Ltd was fined £5 million and ordered to pay £1 million in legal costs, its penalty will be paid by Chevron as part of the deal made before the ownership of the refinery switched to Valero shortly after the 2011 tragedy.

Specialist tank cleaning firm B&A Contracts was fined £120,000 ordered to pay £40,000 in legal costs.

Chevron had mistakenly classified areas within the tank at the time as “non-hazardous” when they should have been listed as the most dangerous.

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The workers were trying to “pump out residue in the tank”, which contained a mix of amine and diesel when the flammable atmosphere ignited.

Experts believe flammable fumes could have been ignited by static from a hose being lowered into the container by the workers, or by incoming air mixing with pyrophoric substances which can “ignite spontaneously on exposure to air”.

Had Chevron adequately assessed the conditions and risks, a different procedure would have been adopted. The failure in its processes led directly to the explosion and workers’ tragic fates.

Chevron has previously apologised to the families of those killed in the blast.

In a statement, the company offered “deepest regrets” and “sincere apologies” for failing to do “what should have been done” to prevent the explosion and subsequent loss of life and injuries.

Video of explosion (From BBC Wales)

TV news coverage at the time (from ITV Wales archive)