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Friday, 9 June, 2000, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Refinery blast cause revealed
Grangemouth refinery
Grangemouth is a major industrial site
BP Amoco has revealed the cause of the massive steam escape at its Grangemouth refinery which heightened fears about safety at the complex.

The blast happened on Wednesday night after a steam valve was turned off without the pressure being throttled back.

After meeting management, Falkirk East MP, Michael Connarty, said the company admitted it was lucky no-one had been hurt.

Mr Connarty said there was no danger to the town from the incident, but he repeated his demand for a public road alongside the plant to be re-routed.

Residents alarmed

The noise from the steam escape, which the company said had been caused by a high-pressure pipe fracturing, alarmed people living within several miles of the huge refinery.

Friday's meeting was originally been set up to discuss an electrical power failure at the plant two weeks ago.

The latest incident is only one of a catalogue of safety alerts in the last year which have tarnished the reputation of the company.

Michael Connarty
Michael Connarty: Talks with management
Mr Connarty said he was satisfied that the concerns expressed by him and local MSP, Cathy Peattie, had been taken very seriously.

"They know they have probably expanded too fast and what they are having here are errors and mistakes and they really have to get their risk assessments better.

"I am reassured that they know they have to do this and are on the way to doing it," he said.

"I will judge them in the future. We have to keep the pressure on and if it happens again, we will find them wanting and will give them a really hard time."

'No obvious connection'

BP, which closed two plastics plants following the emergency, said it treated safety extremely seriously.

Vice-president, Mike Buzzacott, said: "We have been looking hard at trying to find whether there are any systematic connections between these incidents.

"The view at the moment is that there is no obvious connection.

"I think the lessons we are going to learn are that we are going to up our game on risk assessments on particular projects."

Grangemouth's recent record
29 July, 1999
Complete power failure
20 November, 1999
Problem with catalytic cracker, blow-out followed
25 November, 1999 Problem in a gas compressor, out of action for 10 days
26 January, 2000
Two boilers broken, major incident control committee on alert
29 May, 2000
Complete power failure, MICC on alert

Local resident Bill Simpson, who lives half a mile from the complex, said on Wednesday's blast: "It was like sitting under the fuselage of a jumbo jet at full thrust.

"It's unacceptable for people to be saying this morning 'a steam pipe fractured'. This noise was terrific, it went on for more than an hour.

"But it's only one in a series of incidents at this BP complex in the last 18 months."

The complex began operation in the 1920s and has grown into one of Scotland's biggest industrial sites.

It employs about 2,500 people, producing 1.8 million tonnes of petrochemicals and processing almost 10 million tonnes of crude oil annually.

Mr Simpson added: "Any giant company like BP Amoco has to understand that its employees are drawn from the community.

"They are therefore well aware of cutbacks in people, continued automation and real concern about living in the shadow of this facility."

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See also:

16 Mar 00 | Scotland
Refinery cancer link dismissed
14 Mar 00 | Business
BP buys Burmah Castrol
09 Nov 98 | The Company File
BP to create 3,000 jobs
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