CSB Presents 'Anatomy of a Disaster' Video, Examining BP Explosion

Three years after the explosion that killed 15 workers and injured 180 others at the BP Texas City refinery, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board has released a new, comprehensive safety video that describes the causes of the accident and key safety lessons. The 56-minute video, "Anatomy of a Disaster: Explosion at BP Texas City Refinery," is available for viewing in the Video Room of the CSB's Web site, www.Safetyvideos.gov. DVDs of the video will be provided at no charge through the online request form at www.CSB.gov.

The incident occurred on March 23, 2005, during the startup of the refinery's octane-boosting isomerization unit, when a distillation tower and attached blowdown drum were overfilled with flammable liquid hydrocarbons. Because the blowdown drum vented directly to the atmosphere, there was a geyser-like release of flammable liquid, forming a vapor cloud that spread rapidly through the area. A diesel pickup truck that was idling nearby ignited the vapor, initiating a series of explosions and fires that swept through the unit and the surrounding area. Fatalities and injuries occurred in and around occupied work trailers, which were placed too close to the isomerization unit and which were not evacuated prior to the startup.

The safety video includes a nine-minute 3-D computer animation of the sequence of events that led to the explosion, as well as sections describing the refinery's safety culture, the human factor safety issues that contributed to the accident, and the importance of safe equipment design and trailer siting. The video also features interviews with key members of the CSB investigative team, who completed the 341-page public report on the causes of the accident approved by the Board at a public meeting in Texas City on March 20, 2007. In the video, CSB Board Member William Wright discusses the Board's safety recommendations from the accident and key safety lessons from the Board's investigation. Three outside safety experts also appear in the video to discuss their views of the long-term significance of the accident.

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