Industrial Accidents

You can find descriptions of accidents involving hydrocarbon explosions and/or fires below. Another very useful resource is the U.S. Chemical Safety Board's website which comprises a wealth of information on recent and past accidents (including complete investigation reports). Click here to access the CSB's website.
Tamaulipas Refinery, Mexico
Date of accident : 18 September 2012
Facility : Tamaulipas Refinery
Location : Reynosa, Mexico

The Tamaulipas Refinery is located in the City of Reynosa in Tamaulipas, Mexico and is owned by Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), the Mexican state-run petroleum company. It is located on the border of McAllen, Texas, USA and serves as a key entry point of natural gas to Mexico from the United States of America. Prior to the incident, Pemex suffered a series of smaller explosions and fires at several of its refineries and petrochemical plants. Four workers were injured in a fire at the Madero refinery in Tamaulipas earlier in the same month.

Amuay Refinery, Venezuela
Date of accident : 01 September 2012
Facility : Amuay Refinery
Location : Falcón, Venezuela

The Amuay Refinery forms part of the Paraguaná Refinery Complex located in the Paraguaná Peninsula, Venezuela. Operated by the state owned Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), it is the second largest refinery complex in the world, refining 955 thousand barrels per day and accounting for 71% of the refining capacity of Venezuela.

Puebla Oil Pipeline, Mexico
Date of accident : 19 December 2010
Facility : Puebla Oil Pipeline
Location : Puebla, Mexico

The Nuevo Teapa pipeline is a 30-inch pipeline owned by state company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) carrying oil from the port of Dos Bocas in Tabasco to the Tula refinery in Hidalgo. As for many other pipelines owned by Pemex across Mexico, the pipeline had been the recipient of several illegal taps by criminal gangs in order to siphon off the fuel. Over 100 such taps had been detected by Pemex in 2010 along the length of the pipeline and 60 of these were detected in the area in and around the Puebla state alone.

Deepwater Horizon, Gulf of Mexico
Date of accident : 20 April 2010
Facility : Deepwater Horizon Drilling Rig
Location : Macondo Prospect (Mississippi Canyon Block 252), Gulf of Mexico

Deepwater Horizon was a fifth generation, dynamically-positioned semi-submersible drilling unit built in 2001. The unit employed an automated drilling system and a 15,000 psi-rated BOP system and had operated in water depths (WD) greater than 9,000 ft. The rig had drilled wells up to 35,055 ft in the nine years it had been owned and operated by Transocean under contract to BP in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.

Jaipur, India
Date of accident : 29 October 2009
Facility : Jaipur Oil Depot
Location : Jaipur, India

The Indian Oil Corporation’s POL (Petroleum Oil Lubricants) Terminal at Sanganer in Jaipur had been in operation for 12 years prior to the accident. The facility spread over about 120 acres and comprised 9 storage tanks for petroleum products and 2 storage tanks for Motor Spirits. The terminal received products from the Koyali Refinery via the cross country pipeline and also supplied petroleum products to the neighbouring terminals of other oil companies. The IOC crude oil pipeline which runs to 2 other major refineries also passes through the IOC Jaipur terminal which therefore accommodated the critical crude pumping stations to these refineries.

CPC Tank Farm, Puerto Rico
Date of accident : 23 October 2009
Facility : Caribbean Petroleum Corporation (CPC) oil refinery
Location : Cataño, Puerto Rico

The Caribbean Petroleum Corporation (CPC) oil refinery is located near San Juan in Puerto Rico, and occupies a third of a square mile. It includes a tank farm comprising 30 operational aboveground storage tanks, and a refinery which was shutdown in 2000. Prior to the 23rd of October 2009, the tank farm stored gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, and fuel oil.

Buncefield, UK
Date of accident : 11 December 2005
Facility : Hertfordshire Oil Storage Terminal
Location : Hemel-Hempstead, UK

Overfilling (with unleaded petrol) of a tank led to fuel starting to overflow. The protection system which should have shut off the supply did not operate and continued pumping led to the fuel cascading down the side of the tank leading to the rapid formation of a rich fuel/air mixture that collected in the bund.

Mumbai High North, India
Date of accident : 27 July 2005
Facility : Mumbai High North
Location : Mumbai, India

The Mumbai High North complex consists of four bridge-linked platforms at approximately 100kms from the shore.

Texas City, USA
Date of accident : 23 March 2005
Facility : Texas City Refinery
Location : Texas City, Texas

The incident occurred during the start-up of an isomerisation (ISOM) unit when a raffinate splitter tower was overfilled and over-heated. When liquid subsequently filled the overhead line, the relief valves opened. This caused excessive liquid and vapour to flow to blowdown drum and vent at top of the stack.

AZF (Azote de France), Toulouse
Date of accident : 21 September 2001
Facility : AZF (Azote de France) fertilizer factory
Location : Toulouse, France

The explosion occurred in a downgraded ammonium nitrates store, which was authorised for 500 tons and contained approximately 400 tons of product on the day of the explosion. The chemical was stored flat and separated by partitions. It is not known what caused the explosion.

Humber Refinery, UK
Date of accident : 16 April 2001
Facility : Humber Refinery
Location : South Killingholme, UK

Failure of pipework led to a major gas release containing 90% ethane/propane/butane. About 20 to 30 seconds after release, the gas cloud ignited resulting in a massive explosion and fire.

P36, Brazil
Date of accident : 20 March 2001
Facility : Petro36 Platform
Location : Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Drainage operations caused two explosions in the starboard aft column of the P36 platform. The first explosion was caused by the rupture, due to excessive pressure, of the emergency drain storage tank in the column. The explosion resulted in damage to equipment, pipes and electrical/electronic installations. Emergency firefighting crew attended the affected area.

Grangemouth Refinery, UK
Date of accident : 29 May 2000
Facility : Grangemouth Refinery
Location : Grangemouth, UK

29th May 2000: All power was lost to 3 electrical substations that supply electrical power to the North Side of the Complex which contains the Oil Refinery, various chemical plants, utility plants and logistics facilities. Emergency shutdown of the Oil Refinery and the chemical plants on the North Side occurred and the utility plants were also affected due to a loss of power to the main cooling water pump systems. In addition because of the duration of the power failure, a controlled shutdown of some other facilities elsewhere on-site was also necessary because the supply of steam for the correct operation of the flare system could not be maintained. No injuries resulted.

Esso Longford plant, Australia
Date of accident : 25 September 1998
Facility : Esso Longford Plant
Location : Australia

A pump supplying heated lean oil to a heat exchanger stopped and was offline for several hours. There was no flow of warm lean oil though the heat exchanger causing the temperature to drop to a value which was estimated to be -480C and well below the normal operating temperature (approximately 1000C). The low temperature resulted in the formation of ice on the heat exchanger nozzle.

Texaco refinery, UK
Date of accident : 24 July 1994
Facility : Texaco Refinery
Location : Milford Haven, UK

As a consequence of flammable hydrocarbon liquid being continuously pumped into a process vessel that, due to a valve malfunction, had its outlet closed, an explosion occurred. The flare system was not designed to cope with this excursion from normal operation resulting in a failure occurred in the outlet pipe.

Phillips 66 Company, USA
Date of accident : 23 October 1989
Facility : Phillips 66 Company
Location : Pasadena, USA

Following the release of a gas mixture, a vapour cloud formed and moved quickly downwind where it found an ignition source and exploded. There were several subsequent massive explosions involving two isobutane storage tanks and the catastrophic failure of a polyethylene plant reactor.

Piper Alpha, UK
Date of accident : 06 July 1988
Facility : Piper Alpha
Location : North Sea, UK

The disaster began with a routine maintenance procedure. On the morning of the 6th of July, a certain backup propane condensate pump in the processing area needed to have its pressure safety valve checked. The work could not be completed by 18.00 and the workers asked for and received permission to leave the rest of the work until the next day. The tube was sealed with a plate.

Bhopal, India
Date of accident : 02 December 1984
Facility : Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL)
Location : Bhopal, India

At 11.00 pm on 2nd December 1984, an operator at the plant noticed a small leak of highly toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and increasing pressure inside a storage tank. The vent-gas scrubber, a safety device designed to neutralize toxic discharge from the MIC system, had been turned off three weeks prior. Apparently a faulty valve had allowed one ton of water for cleaning internal pipes to mix with forty tons of MIC.

PEMEX LPG Terminal, Mexico
Date of accident : 19 November 1984
Facility : PEMEX LPG Terminal
Location : San Juanico, Mexico

A 200mm pipe between a storage cylinder and sphere ruptured, releasing LPG. The release continued for some 5 to 10 minutes resulting in a large gas cloud which ignited, causing an explosion and many ground fires.

Seveso, Italy
Date of accident : 10 July 1976
Facility : ICMESA Chemical Company
Location : Seveso, Italy

Rupture of the bursting disc on batch plant for the manufacture of 2,4,5-trichlorophenol (TCP) led to the release of highly toxic dioxin. Dioxin is not normally formed but the reactor got too hot resulting in a runaway reaction which caused a rise in pressure leading to the disc rupture.

Flixborough, UK
Date of accident : 01 June 1974
Facility : Nypro UK
Location : Flixborough, UK

The cyclohexane plant consisted of a train of six reactors in series. Prior to the explosion, on 27 March 1974, it was discovered that a vertical crack in reactor No.5 was leaking cyclohexane. The plant was subsequently shut down for an investigation which identified a serious problem with the reactor. The decision was taken to remove it and install a bypass assembly to connect reactors No.4 and No.6 so that the plant could continue production.


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