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Chevron fined £5m over fatal 2011 UK refinery explosion

06 June 2019

The former owners of an oil refinery in Pembroke, west Wales, have been fined over an explosion in June 2011 that killed four contractors. Chevron will have to pay a fine of £5 million and court costs of £1 million as part of a deal it struck with Valero Energy UK Limited, which bought the site shortly after the disaster.

Pembroke Refinery: Shutterstock
Pembroke Refinery: Shutterstock

Specialist tank cleaning firm B&A Contracts, which employed the contractors, was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay £40,000 in legal costs. Both firms were sentenced at Swansea Crown Court on June 6.

Other than the fatalities, a fifth worker caught in the fireball survived but with life-changing burns.

The five workers had been instructed to pump residue from a chemical storage tank which normally contained a mix of amine and diesel, but was going through a cleaning process. As they carried out the operation, flammable gases inside ignited.

The court heard that just days before the explosion one Chevron worker had carried out a gas test which should have alerted the refinery to the flammable atmosphere, but its results were either not properly communicated or not understood.

The court heard it was impossible to say for certain what had caused the explosion, but that experts believed it would have been either a static spark caused by the workers unearthed hosepipe or the presence of pyrogenic substances within the tank, which can ignite spontaneously when dry.

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

In a statement the company offered its “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.

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