Petrochemicals company Ineos has been fined £400,000 after a leak from a corroded pipe created a huge explosive gas cloud over the Scottish oil port of Grangemouth in 2017. A court heard that workers and others nearby were put at risk by the failings of Ineos Chemicals.
The Courier reports that the company admitted that safety inspections had not detected the 10-inch long corroded pipe at the plant in Grangemouth, which allowed the flammable gas to escape. Around 17 tonnes of ethylene gas leaked from a fissure in the pipe over several hours in May 2017.
Falkirk Sheriff Court was told the company’s ethylene cracker at Grangemouth had been re-commissioned in 2016 to process methane from the fracking industry in the United States and produce raw materials for the plastics industry.
Of the 17,500 lines of pipe at the plant, the section in question had been wrongly identified as not being high risk, and therefore not subjected to insulation strips as part of a regular inspection programme.
This allowed a process called ‘chloride-induced stress load corrosion cracking’, which was conceivably caused by sea salt.
After giving Ineos 28 days to pay the £400,000 fine, Sheriff Wyllie Robertson said: “This was categorised internally as the highest category of major incident where there’s a risk beyond the site and boundaries.”
He added that the significant risk was that the ethylene gas could have ignited, particularly given its proximity to furnaces at the plant, which potentially could have resulted in thermal effects and generated a blast wave.
“There was a risk of death in the event that occurred,” he said, adding that “the fact the gas cloud did not ignite is due in no little measure to safety procedures that were in place and the prompt implementation of them.”
“This should serve as a considerable reassurance to those who work there or live or work nearby.”
Ineos (Grangemouth) Ltd pleaded guilty to failing to take steps to prevent the incident, contrary to the 2015 Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations.
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