Saturday, 19 June 2010


Buncefield fire: Oil storage firm found guilty of safety breaches

Company controlled by Total and Chevron has been found guilty of grave safety failures that led to the largest fire in peacetime Europe

A company controlled by Total and Chevron has been found guilty of host of grave safety failures that led to the Buncefield oil depot explosion and the largest fire in peacetime Europe.

Hertfordshire Oil Storage Limited (HOSL), which was owned by the oil conglomerates, was found guilty of failing to prevent major accidents and limit their effects, it was revealedtoday.

The guilty verdict followed one of the most complex corporate criminal trials of its kind and is a major blow for Total, the major shareholder.

It will also intensify global concern over the safety practices of international companies. BP's chief executive, Tony Hayward, is under unrelenting pressure over safety lapses suspected to have caused the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster, the cause of the largest offshore oil spill in US history.

The Buncefield blast on 11 December 2005 had a magnitude of 2.4 and the subsequent plume which drifted across Europe was visible from space. The destruction at the depot came after a huge vapour cloud ignited when 250,000 litres of petrol leaked from one of its tanks.

The explosion injured 43 people, destroyed homes and businesses and could be heard 125 miles away. Prosecutors said it was miraculous that there were no fatalities, a fact largely attributed to the accident happening early on a Sunday. The jury of 11 men and one woman were told that the environmental damage caused was still not known.

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