Formerly known as British Petroleum, BP operates in 72 countries and employs more than 74,000 people. It produces the equivalent of 3.3 million barrels of oil per day and has 1.7 million barrels of refinery throughput every day. In addition, it has about 18,000 retail locations. The company began in 1908, aided by the discovery of oil in Persia, and has grown into a worldwide conglomerate that also consists of the heritage brands of Amoco, ARCO/AMPM, Sohio, Castrol, and Aral.
BP consists of an Upstream segment, responsible for oil and natural gas exploration, and development, production, transportation, and storage. Activities are integrated across 13 regions, while the U.S. Lower 48 represents a separate onshore business unit of BP. The Downstream segment focuses on refining fuel, manufacturing lubricants and petrochemicals, and selling and marketing these assets. In addition, the company is focused on alternative energy sources such as biofuels and wind.
There were 13 refineries owned by BP, capable of producing refined petroleum and related products, by the end of 2015. In addition to production facilities, the company also operates a network of pipelines, tankers, and storage terminals. Its manufacturing operations produce products such as paraxylene, terephthalic acid, acetic acid, and olefins.
BP: A History of Accidents
The company has a notable history of major accidents; the most recognized being the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion on April 20, 2010. Killing 11 people and releasing 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the incident was caused by multiple failures. The crew had pumped cement into a borehole the day prior to the accident. A failed blowout preventer is the popular cause, although eight different systems had failed the day employees were checking to see the well was properly sealed.
A valve failure, poor cement, misinterpreted pressure test, failure to detect a leak in time, and an overwhelmed separator contributed to the explosion. There was also no alarm to notify the gas detection system had identified an anomaly, which would have trigged ventilation fans to close. A drained battery in the blowout preventer’s safety mechanism and defective switch meant the system couldn’t close on its own. The crew was unable to because control lines were destroyed by the explosion.
Other BP Accidents
April 28, 2017: An accident at the Whiting Refinery in Indiana injured four workers, who were transported to local hospitals. The incident occurred on Worker’s Memorial Day, which recognizes workplace safety and honors those injured/killed on the job. The facility is the largest refinery in the Midwestern United States.
June 2012: One worker was killed, and two injured, while conducting maintenance on a natural gas pipeline compressor station. The explosion occurred at the company’s Pinion station, near Bayfield, Colorado.
July 2011: A pipeline ruptured at the company’s Lisburne field in Alaska. Although there were no injuries, up to 4,200 gallons of oil spilled onto the nearby gravel and aquatic tundra.
2006: There were two separate leaks in the Prudhoe Bay oilfield in Alaska, occurring in March and August. The first leak was the largest, involving 200,000 gallons of crude oil, which escaped into the surrounding tundra. The U.S. government cited the company for not addressing internal corrosion. A criminal fine, criminal restitution, and community service payments were issued against the firm.
March 2005: Fifteen workers were killed at a refinery in Texas City, Texas. Also, 180 employees were injured. Considered one of the country’s worst industrial accidents, the explosion was caused by the ignition of hydrocarbon liquid and vapor when they were released. Ignored safety procedures were to blame, and the company admitted this was the case and paid more than $2 billion in settlements among other violations and fines.
BP keeps track of statistics involving accidents and incidents requiring medical care, on its website. Recordable injuries per 200,000 hours worked decreased for the entire company’s workforce from 0.35 in 2012 to 0.21 in 2016. Over the same period, days away from work cases (per 200,000 work hours) dropped from 0.076 to 0.051. The statistics float just above and below the International Association of Oil & Gas benchmark and below the American Petroleum Institute U.S. benchmark. However, these numbers don’t indicate the actual numbers in injuries and fatalities over a given period.