On 2 May 2017, around 17 tonnes of ethylene escaped from the pipe, precipitating a flammable gas cloud of around 65,000m3, Falkirk Sheriff Court heard. The cloud moved through a congested area of the plant and reached ground level, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
HSE found that the “immediate cause of an unplanned shutdown on the compressor was due to a ‘non-routine’ maintenance activity related to the changeover of a redundant electronic control card in the compressor anti-surge system”.
The line “should have been designed for all potential operating conditions and should not have failed as a result of the rapid opening of the valve and the sudden inrush of hot gas”, it said.
Ineos Chemicals Grangemouth pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5(1) of the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 2015 and section 33(1) of the Health and Safety at Work. Act 1974.
HSE inspector Mac Young said: “While there were no injuries as a result of this incident and it was brought under control relatively quickly, the level of fine reflects the seriousness of what happened. It is important that operators of high hazard sites remain vigilant and control the risks that arise as a result of their processes to prevent major incidents.”
An Ineos spokesperson at Grangemouth said that Ineos Chemicals Grangemouth fully accepts the outcome and ruling of the court.
“We acknowledge that during the Court Summary, the Procurator Fiscal commented that this was not an incident brought about by a poor attitude to health and safety, but demonstrates that even in the case of a responsible duty holder, it is necessary to take nothing for granted,” the spokesperson said.
“At the time of the incident, we took immediate action to contain and mitigate its effects to ensure it remained confined within the boundary of the site and informed the relevant authorities.
“Throughout, we have fully engaged with the Health and Safety Executive in their investigation into the circumstances that led to the leak and have already implemented their recommendations,” they added.
“We continually strive towards excellence in every aspect of our operations at Grangemouth, always with safety as the top priority. We have carried out a comprehensive review of the event and learned lessons. We have undertaken a thorough programme of works and investments that will protect against a re-occurrence.”