By Erwin Seba
June 25, 2008
HOUSTON - Washington state's Department of Labor & Industries said on Wednesday it found 23 serious safety and health violations at Shell Oil Co's 145,000 barrel per day (bpd) refinery in Anacortes, Washington.
Shell said it was weighing a possible appeal of the agency's citation, which could lead to fines totaling $109,600.
The Labor & Industries Department's findings came after inspectors spent two days a week for two months in the refinery and poured over 10,000 pages of documents.
The inspection is part of the federal National Emphasis Program to conduct detailed safety inspections at U.S. refineries to prevent a repeat of the 2005 explosion at BP Plc's Texas City, Texas, refinery, which killed 15 workers and injured 180 other people.
Among the serious violations found at the Shell Anacortes refinery were failures to identify and control hazards that could lead to releases of highly hazardous chemicals and deficiencies in the development of mechanical integrity programs, the Labor & Industries Department said.
"A serious violation is cited when there is the potential for death or serious physical injury from the violation," the agency said in a statement.
A Shell spokesman said much of the citation concerned documentation of safety programs at the refinery.
"The refinery is reviewing the citation at this time," said Shell spokesman Brian Sibley. "We have 15 days to review this."
A health and safety specialist for the United Steelworkers union, which represents workers at the refinery, said the Labor & Industries Department's findings were similar to those seen in other inspections across the country.
"Everything we saw as contributor to the Texas City explosion, we saw in these inspections," said the USW's Kim Nibarger. "You'd think at $4.00 a gallon for gasoline, they'd be able to fix things."
A U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigation of the BP Texas City blast found numerous failures to recognize the risk of a catastrophic release of explosive chemicals and maintain the refinery's equipment.
Shell Oil Co is the U.S. unit of Royal Dutch Shell Plc .