Esso has been fined £500,000 for a leak of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) that was discovered by a worker cycling home at the end of his shift.
Southampton Magistrates’ Court heard that, on 15 November 2015, there was an uncontrolled release of around 15 tonnes of LPG through a valve near to the main roadway used by LPG road tankers visiting Esso Petroleum Company’s refinery in Fawley, Hampshire.
The leak went undetected for around four hours before being discovered by an employee on his way home. It took a further hour to establish the source of the leak. On-site emergency personnel had to enter the area to reset the valve.
The HSE investigation found that the leak occurred because the LPG was flowing through the pipework at a pressure that was too high for the valve. There was no process in place to detect the discrepancy in the flow and the company had failed to take the necessary measures to prevent a major accident.
Esso Petroleum Company Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5(1) of The Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations (COMAH) 2015 and was fined £500,000.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Jonathan Halewood said: “Where companies handle large quantities of substances that can cause major accidents, such as LPG, they are required to have layers of protection in place to prevent accidents.
“In this incident, a number of those layers either failed or were not in place, resulting in a significant leak. Even though there was no fire or injury on this occasion, there was potential for a major accident. The prosecution has been brought to highlight the importance of maintaining the layers of protection and preventing this kind of major leak.”