The owner and operator of the Stanlow Manufacturing Complex in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, Essar Oil UK, has been fined following an explosion at their refinery.

During the start up of the main distillation unit at the site, highly flammable hydrocarbons entered an unused furnace. Heat from a nearby furnace then triggered the explosion. The explosion caused several fires across the site.

Fortunately no one was injured in the incident, however the explosion which led to the collapse of internal structures, caused more than £20 million worth of damage.

An investigation into the incident by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company had installed a safety critical valve incorrectly, and had failed to properly validate the operation of it. Furthermore the installation of a new safety critical trip was also found to have been inadequately assessed as the system had a bypasss line in place which defeated the operation of the trip system.

The HSE added that although it was company policy to isolate the main fuel lines to the furnace, a secondary fuel line had not been isolated during shutdown. It was this failure that allowed the hydrocarbons to enter the furnace.

Joanne Eccles, HSE principal inspector, commented: “The industry should take notice of this case; there were no injuries but mistakes were made and could have been prevented.”

Essar Oil UK pleaded guilty at Liverpool Crown Court to breaches of the Control of Major Hazards Regulations SI 1999/743 for failing to prevent a major accident. They were fined £1.65 million and ordered to pay costs of £57,645.

For more information, see the:

  • Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations SI 2015/483.