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Chapter 1


    BP Texas City Explosion 




The Turn around


The majority of accidents and exposures to Chemicals occur during the turnaround procedure. We call this, the Shutdown, a period of  careful planning, refurbishing, scheduling and coordination between construction crews and refinery personnel.

The Turnaround means every thing about the Plant has changed from the normal and routine operation. A Plant turnaround requires  systematic procedures to make sure that unanticipated accidents do not occur---OSHA requires a complete Plan in writing that covers all proposed actions and repairs that are needed to maintain safe and efficient operations. British Petroleum Texas City Refinery had been scheduled for a Shutdown at least 1-2 years in advance and Engineers had to consider the condition of the Plant, The Texas City Refining unit that was to blame was becoming  sluggish and losing 20 to 15 percent of its efficiency.  It was very important for BP Amoco to refurbish many of its Texas City refining Units, Delaying the maintenance could prove costly if an emergency was to cause an unplanned Turnaround.. 

Depending on the process unit and the amount of maintenance needed, the length of the Turnaround was estimated to last approximately Eight Weeks. British Petroleumís Texas City's Refinery Turnaround was to involve the crude unit or the catalytic cracking unit, alkylation's unit, isomerization unit or sulfur plant.   

      Not all of British Petroleum Amoco units are impacted during the Turnaround. For example, the industry average is about 4 years between Turnarounds including catalytic cracking Units. A Turnaround is not necessary to enable a Refinery to shift from gasoline mode to distillate mode. However, if a Turnaround was planned, it is possible to take steps, such as Catalyst upgrades, that could improve the Distillate yields.   In general, the less often Units are started up and taken down, the better (safer) it is since Refinery incidents are more likely to occur during Shutdown.

You would not run your Vehicle for for Three Years  without doing maintenance and changing the Oil, essentially that is how a petroleum Refinery has to operate She runs 24 hours a Day, Seven Days a Week, 52 Weeks out of the Year. It is understandable that to completely maintain a Refinery it must be shutdown to perform a complete inspection and to perform the necessary  maintenance Procedures. It  is then that various areas of the plant can then be safely worked on. Equipment and  Machinery can then be opened and inspected , cleaned and or rebuilt also checked  for strength and integrity . One of the main reasons for a turnaround would be to check the integrity, and upgrade critical  equipment, This would not be possible while the plant is in operation and in production mode

 A tremendous amount of work and maintenance must be performed in a short time frame generally about two to six weeks with workers  working 24 hour shifts. A huge Workforce of up to 2000 Contractors can be utilized to complete the overhaul. Inspectors utilize special Tools like video Camera surveillance, Cranes and sky Lifts to inspect Towers.





The Turn around



To the Onlooker the turnaround process looks like a busy Kingdom of army Ants. However there is a very high level of organization and performance from all workers and staff working on the plant. Environmental and safety regulations govern the maintenance procedure to pass government inspections.  British Petroleum Texas City refinery was very close to completing its restoration about 8 weeks had passed since the beginning of the shutdown process and the plant was ready for refueling



"As Arthur Ramos, a welding inspector for JE, Merit Contractors walked along a series of pipes and gauges he noticed a slight discrepancy in the flanges that were installed in a system of relief valves and storage tanks used for safety and emergencies. He could see that the Workers were cleaning up and preparing to inspect  there work, verifying the satisfaction and completion of  their task. As welding inspector Ramos investigated more closely He could clearly see that the Flanges installed were apparently the wrong type and category . My Father-in-law could see a crack or a defect a mile away! With many years of in the business and working on numerous types of systems. He had that microscopic Eye and could smell an error in an instant. Mr. Ramos has been involved in maintenance and shutdown duties for years and is a seasoned turnaround Worker.

I remember an inspiring and testy work Day in El Dorado, Arkansas. a small but thriving Community. Nepco, a construction Company overseen by Enron energy and its Companies, contracted Us. We had the privilege to work in one of Two natural Gas electric generating power Plants, El Dorado and Gila bend, Arizona. Two of the fourth largest ongoing construction Sites in the U.S., Three thousand construction Workers on any given Day.

     Arthur was the General Forman on site---in charge of seven other Supervisors and my Uncle Joe Joe Asso; He was the  assistant Superintendent in charge. Pops and Uncle Joe were respected and trusted. Being utilized for there experience in the Field. The Designers and Pipefitters had taken shortcuts when building the Pipe support Sytems. Steel Braces that hold a system of various dimensional Piping intertwined like a Spiderís Web. support Racks stabilize  incredible amounts of weight and safety code specifications were standardized. Pops was very aware of industries standards and specifications---it was second nature to him. He pointed out to the Engineers there mistakes; fortunately the issue was resolved and corrected. The Pipe-fitters had installed the wrong gage of Steel

        Mistakes like these can cause many Injuries and Fatalities  Pops was able to spot the difference in Steel specifications upon first glance, and if the the newly designed, highly advanced Plant had operated under these circumstances it may have literally crumbled to the Ground! Its durability certainly would have been tested and the chance of a destructive collapse was postponed, My Father-in-law was a true hero"         i



     As British petroleum contractors gathered, Arthur explained to them the flange ratings and capabilities. An incredible amount of pressure would be present on the flange.




The Turn around



Exactly where the valve and pipes are mated. The pressure rating of the flanges that were being negligently installed in the refurbished System---were  underrated . The Workers listened carefully and soon discovered there mistake. My Father in law was a humorous Man and loved to challenge his Comrades with words.  He tolled with them, "If this Refinery had been restarted with those Flanges I guarantee you everyone in this area would be dead or killed". In a matter of Minutes there were Superintendents surrounding the Area in detail and fortunately, the problem was corrected.

That Evening on March 18th, 2005 Papi began to share with me the incident that occurred that Day at the British Petroleum Texas City Refinery.  I sensed fear and could see a heavy burden on his Shoulders. "Kiki  I am so worried about the current facility. It seems the Workers have no idea, that there mistakes and the consequences could be devastating to the safety  of Others what were They doing"? The Contractors are making many simple mistakes, and incredibly BP is in terrible danger of destroying itself by not correctly holding Contractors accountable. Engineers and operators are over worked and being pushed to the breaking point. Pop's was interested in the Refueling process something was bothering Him and I just could not understand his concern. "We have completed the Shutdown and no word has been given on the restart time. I will be sure to stand faraway, Joked Pop's.

 This had become a continuing problem with the ongoing Shutdown. A crucial mistake that could have cost Workers there Lives.  Papi was proud and said he noticed a few big shots and green hats correcting the mistakes his trained eye had detected. Shaking his Head, we both looked deep in to the beautiful crystal clear swimming Pool we were cleaning. It was a creepy Crawler and We sipped on our ice-cold Suds as We sat by the Pool, Both knowing the others thoughts  Creepy Crawler would scan the bottom of the swimming Pool and continue to slurp up the murk and Dirt on the bottom. We watched Creepy automatically clean the Pool. We each decided---whoever invented that creepy crawler was a rich Man.

 All You had to do was hook up your cleaning Crawler to the pool pump, and away She went, cleaning the bottom of the pool for hours. A Machine swimming back and forth magically completing His task, not a speck of Grime did it miss!
















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