Which Industries Have the Most Number of Process Safety Incidents?

Introduction 

Process safety incidents have historically been a significant concern across various industries in the USA, with notable occurrences in petrochemicals, storage, oil refining, offshore oil and gas, and chemicals. These industries, encompassing complex processes and the handling of hazardous materials, face challenges leading to unforeseen events and significant consequences.

Recognizing the historical occurrences in these sectors is pivotal for instituting effective safety measures. This overview aims to provide informative insights into the industries with the most process safety incidents.

Petrochemical Industry 

The petrochemical industry is a crucial part of the process industries, focusing on turning raw materials from petroleum and natural gas into useful products, like plastics and synthetic fibers. It involves various units and equipment, such as reactors, towers, heaters, and storage tanks.

In petrochemical plants, chemicals like ethylene and propylene are processed, playing a role in creating everyday items. However, this process comes with its share of risks. Incidents, like explosions and runaway reactions, can lead to on-site injuries and even fatalities. Hazardous materials like ammonium nitrate and hydroxylamine, common reactants used in petrochemical plants, add to these dangers.

PHILLIPS 66 EXPLOSION 1989

Over the years, the petrochemical industry in the USA has seen challenges related to process safety. For instance, the Phillips 66 Explosion in 1989 involved the storage of ethylene and led to on-site fatalities ranging from 11 to 100 individuals. This incident underscores the critical need for strict safety protocols, particularly when dealing with flammable materials. Here are other notable petrochemical plant catastrophes in history:

YearIncidentMaterialOn-Site FatalitiesHazards
2012Map Ta Phut ExplosionPolybutadiene11-100 FatalitiesFlammable
2006Port Arthur ExplosionPropylene1-10 FatalitiesFlammable
1991Sterlington ExplosionNitromethane1-10 FatalitiesFlammable, Reactive, Toxic
1989Phillips 66 ExplosionEthylene11-100 FatalitiesFlammable
1987Pampa ExplosionButane1-10 FatalitiesFlammable

These incidents serve as tragic reminders of the potential consequences associated with petrochemical incidents, emphasizing the urgent need for process safety management, including process hazard analysis, to mitigate fatalities and protect both workers and surrounding communities.

Storage Industry 

Storage facilities, essential for housing a variety of materials, face incidents marked by overpressure and explosive decompositions. The stored materials, including hazardous substances like ammonium nitrate, pose serious risks. Incidents in storage industries can result in on-site fatalities and environmental effects, highlighting the importance of stringent safety measures.

2020 Enjet Galveston Vapor Cloud Explosion

The most recent storage incident is the Enjet Explosion 2020, which occurred at Enjet Galveston in Texas, a company specializing in storage, particularly crude oil. The incident took place on May 19, 2020, and involved a vapor cloud explosion (VCE) near a crude oil storage tank. Two individuals sustained injuries during welding activities.

The explosion, situated at the Pelican Island Storage Terminal with a capacity of 2 million gallons, triggered a fire that was promptly controlled by firefighters using foam cannons. Local authorities issued a shelter-in-place order at Texas A&M University due to the proximity of the incident. Here are other notable storage plant catastrophes in history:

YearIncidentMaterialImpactsEffectsHazards
2019Aghorn Energy Toxic ReleaseHydrogen SulfideOffsite Fatalities1-10 FatalitiesFlammable, Toxic
2015Liquid Transfer Terminals ExplosionSodium HydrosulfideOn-Site Fatalities1-10 FatalitiesCorrosive, Environmental, Flammable, Toxic
2015Petrobras (Vitória) ExplosionOil DerivativesOn-Site Fatalities1-10 FatalitiesFlammable
1982Tacoma Terminal ExplosionFuel OilOffsite Fatalities>100 FatalitiesFlammable
1974Bulk Terminals Toxic ReleaseHydrogen ChlorideOn-Site Fatalities1-10 FatalitiesCorrosive, Toxic

 

In the storage industry, challenges such as overpressure and explosive decompositions necessitate careful attention to prevent accidents. Hazardous materials demand cautious handling to minimize the associated risks. To safeguard both personnel and the environment, storage facilities must adhere to rigorous safety measures. Learning from incidents like the Enjet Explosion reinforces the significance of PSM.

Oil Refining Industry 

The oil refining industry, a key player among process industries, is responsible for converting crude oil into a variety of essential products, including gasoline, diesel, and petrochemicals. This intricate process involves various units and equipment, such as distillation columns, reactors, and storage tanks.

Chemicals processed in oil refineries encompass a range of hydrocarbons, including hazardous substances like oxygen, nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, hydrochloric acid, and sulfuric acid. However, handling such materials comes with inherent risks. Incidents in the oil refining industry frequently involve fires and toxic releases, posing serious hazards to both workers and the environment.

BP TEXAS CITY REFINERY EXPLOSION 2005

One notable incident that exemplifies the severity of such hazards is the BP Texas City Refinery Explosion in 2005. Here are other notable oil refining catastrophes in history:

YearIncidentMaterialImpactsEffectsHazards
2011Chevron Pembroke Explosion 2011HydrocarbonsHUMAN (On-Site Fatalities)1-10 FatalitiesFlammable
2010Tesoro (Anacortes) Refinery Explosion 2010NapthaHUMAN (On-Site Fatalities)1-10 FatalitiesFlammable
2005Valero (Delaware) Refinery Asphyxiation 2005NitrogenHUMAN (On-Site Fatalities)1-10 FatalitiesAsphyxiant
2005BP Texas City Refinery Explosion 2005HydrocarbonsHUMAN (On-Site Fatalities)11-100 FatalitiesFlammable
1999Tosco Avon (Crude Unit) Fire 1999NapthaHUMAN (On-Site Fatalities)11-100 FatalitiesFlammable
1997Tosco Avon (Hydrocracker) Explosion 1997HydrocarbonsHUMAN (On-Site Fatalities)11-100 FatalitiesFlammable
1987BP (Grangemouth) Refinery Fire 1987HydrocarbonsHUMAN (On-Site Fatalities)11-100 FatalitiesFlammable
1984Romeoville Refinery Explosion 1984PropaneHUMAN (On-Site Fatalities)11-100 FatalitiesFlammable

These tragic events resulted in multiple human casualties, underlining the gravity of the situations that can unfold in oil refineries. The impacts of these incidents extend beyond injuries, with effects ranging from immediate harm to long-term consequences. They underscore the urgent need for robust safety measures within the oil refining industry to prevent and mitigate such devastating incidents, ensuring the well-being of both the workforce and surrounding communities.

Offshore Oil and Gas Industry 

Offshore oil and gas operations, vital for extracting energy resources from beneath the seabed, are susceptible to incidents involving well blowouts, platform explosions, and oil spills. The complex offshore environment introduces unique challenges with the potential for catastrophic consequences. Incidents in this sector can lead to human casualties, environmental devastation, and economic losses, emphasizing the imperative for comprehensive safety protocols.

PIPER ALPHA EXPLOSION 1988

 A significant historical offshore incident is the 1988 Piper Alpha Incident, a tragic event that occurred in the North Sea. Piper Alpha, an offshore platform engaged in oil and gas production, experienced a catastrophic explosion and subsequent fire on July 6, 1988.

The incident resulted in the loss of 167 lives and the complete destruction of the platform. Investigations revealed failures in safety systems, communication, and emergency response procedures. Here are other offshore oil and gas incidents in history:

YearIncidentMaterialImpactsEffectsHazards
2015Abkatun Permanente Fire 2015Crude OilHUMAN (On-Site Fatalities)1-10 FatalitiesFlammable
2015Petrobras (Espirito Santos FPSO) Explosion 2015MethaneHUMAN (On-Site Fatalities)1-10 FatalitiesFlammable
2010Deepwater Horizon Blowout & Explosion 2010Crude OilHUMAN (On-Site Fatalities)11-100 FatalitiesFlammable
1993Lama Explosion 1993PropaneHUMAN (On-Site Fatalities)11-100 FatalitiesFlammable
1988Piper Alpha Explosion 1988HydrocarbonsHUMAN (On-Site Fatalities)> 100 FatalitiesFlammable

In the offshore oil and gas industry, the intricacies of drilling, production, and transportation necessitate stringent safety measures. Learning from historical events like the Piper Alpha Incident underscores the vital role of process hazard analysis (PHA) and continuous adherence to Process Safety Management (PSM) principles.

Chemical Industry 

Chemical industries play a pivotal role in manufacturing a wide range of products, but they face inherent risks, including chemical spills, leaks, and explosions. Incidents in chemical plants can lead to severe consequences such as toxic exposure, environmental contamination, and community health risks. Safeguarding against these dangers requires strict adherence to safety protocols and ongoing risk assessments.

BHOPAL TOXIC RELEASE 1984

 

One of the most notorious incidents in the history of chemical industries is the Union Carbide Bhopal Incident in 1984. This tragic event occurred in Bhopal, India, when a pesticide plant owned by Union Carbide Corporation experienced a catastrophic gas leak.

The release of methyl isocyanate (MIC) resulted in the immediate deaths of thousands of people and left a lasting impact on the affected community’s health and environment. Here are other notable catastrophes in the chemical industry:

YearIncidentMaterialImpactsEffectsHazards
1994Terra InternationalAmmonium NitrateExplosive Decomposition1-10 FatalitiesExplosive
1991Union Carbide SeadriftEthylene OxideExplosion1-10 FatalitiesFlammable, Toxic
1984Union Carbide BhopalMethyl IsocyanateToxic Gas Release to Air> 100 FatalitiesCorrosive, Flammable, Toxic
1974Nypro UKCyclohexaneVCE11-100 FatalitiesFlammable
1921BASF OppauAmmonium NitrateExplosive Decomposition> 100 FatalitiesExplosive

 

In the chemical industry, where the handling of hazardous substances is prevalent, learning from incidents like Union Carbide Bhopal is crucial. It reinforces the importance of stringent safety measures, robust emergency response plans, and continuous commitment to PSM principles to prevent and mitigate potential catastrophes.

Conclusion 

The frequency and severity of process safety incidents in these industries underscore the need for comprehensive safety protocols not just in the USA but worldwide. Lessons learned from past events stress the importance of emergency preparedness, risk assessment, and stakeholder engagement.

Commitment to a safety culture, adherence to standards, and continuous workforce involvement are crucial for mitigating the impact of process safety incidents. By addressing industry-specific challenges and fostering a proactive safety mindset, these sectors can enhance their resilience against potential incidents, safeguarding both personnel and the environment.

Saltegra Consulting LLC emerges as a leading partner dedicated to ensuring the well-being of both people and businesses. With a core focus on Process Hazard Analysis (PHA), our expertise extends from HAZOP facilitation to comprehensive HAZOP training and certification. Our tailored HAZOP facilitation and training programs empower organizations to foster a culture of safety, equipping their workforce with the knowledge and skills necessary to identify and mitigate potential hazards.

We go beyond conventional approaches by offering specialized HAZOP leader courses designed to cultivate leaders capable of steering their teams through complex safety assessments. Our commitment to excellence in PSM consulting positions us as a trusted ally for businesses seeking to enhance their safety programs.