TEXAS CITY — Much has changed at the refinery where 10 years ago 15 people were killed and more than 170 injured. The biggest change is that the refinery has a new owner and a new name.
Two years ago, BP Texas City became Marathon Petroleum Galveston Bay Refinery. Many of the workers who were inside the refinery on March 23, 2005, no longer work in the complex and many of those who do are either hourly workers who have been on strike since Feb. 1 or supervisors who are running the units.
There will be no moment of silence or any visible recognition of the event that was the city’s worst industrial incident since the April 1947 ship explosions that became known as the Texas City Disaster.
“Monday is kind of a key date in the history of this refinery,” Galveston Bay Refinery Manager Ray Brooks said during last week’s meeting of the Community Advisory Council.
Brooks said the company wouldn’t be doing anything different or special to mark the 10-year anniversary of the explosion at the then-BP refinery.
“We are going to do what we’ve done every day for the past two years, which is work to make Galveston Bay the safest refinery that can be,” he said.
Brooks said the company has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in safety related projects since it purchased the refinery from BP in 2013.
BP may no longer own that 1,200-acre refinery, but it still has a presence in the city. The company operates a chemical plant.
The effect of the explosions and subsequent investigations are ever-present, BP spokesman Scott Dean said.
“In the 10 years since the tragic accident at Texas City, BP has made steady progress in becoming a leader in process safety within the U.S. refining industry,” Dean said. “Benchmarking data over the past several years clearly shows that BP’s U.S. refineries are performing well on process safety when compared to the rest of the U.S. refining sector.”
Dean said the company has implemented the recommendations of its own commissioned investigation panel, led by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker.
The panel found a broken corporate culture within BP that contributed to poor process safety management across the company and that, “BP has not adequately embraced safety as a core value.”
That’s changed, Dean said.
“Duane Wilson was also appointed as an independent process safety expert reporting to BP’s board of directors,” Dean said. “He monitored and reported annually on BP’s progress implementing the Baker Panel recommendations.”
Meanwhile, members of the United Steelworkers will gather for a candlelight vigil at 8 p.m. today at the union hall, 2327 Texas Avenue, to mark the anniversary.
“In the aftermath of the explosion, industry experts and political leaders came together to demand lifesaving improvements in refinery safety,” the USW said in a statement. “But in the 10 years since the Texas City explosion, we’ve seen (within the industry) dozens more fires, releases and explosions, and refinery workers are continuing to lose their lives in preventable workplace accidents.”
About 1,100 Galveston Bay Refinery hourly workers have been on strike in part because the USW claims that Marathon is attempting to renege on safety changes within the refinery that BP agreed to after the explosions. Company officials deny that accusation.
Last week, after the union had come to a tentative agreement on a national oil contract, Marathon and USW negotiators met again to work out differences on the local level.