Buncefield depot blast trial starts

Buncefield Oil Terminal


The Buncefield fuel-storage blast liability trial has opened at the High Court, with oil giant Total claiming that Chevron is partly responsible for the disaster.

On December 11, 2005, a tank at the Buncefield Oil Terminal in Hemel Hempstead overfilled and created a large vapour cloud that ignited and triggered a series of explosions.

These caused major damage to neighbouring homes and businesses that have led to compensation claims thought to be in the region of £700 million.

Total, which has already admitted some liability for the blast, will argue in court that liability should be shared with Chevron. Total (60%) and Chevron (40%) are the owners of the depot.

Chevron will argue that the day-to-day running of the plant was solely down to Total, which will claim that TAV Engineers, as manufacturer of a high-level alarm that failed, should also contribute to the compensation.

Total admitted earlier this year that damage to buildings within 451 metres of the site could have been foreseen, but now businesses and homeowners further than 451 metres will have to prove the damage and disruption they suffered was also foreseeable.

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David Urpeth from law firm Irwin Mitchell said: "It is disappointing that Total are trying to avoid paying damages to all home owners affected by this terrible work accident.

"Having represented workers and residents in other explosion cases, I would urge Total to reconsider their stance."

Mr Urpeth represented over 75 workers and many residents who were injured in the 2001 blast at the Killingholme refinery when over 170 tonnes of liquid petroleum gas caught fire. Conoco-Phillips, who owned the plant, was eventually fined £1m for breaching health and safety regulations after the explosion at its Humber refinery.