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Ben Schrader was retained to review an incident that occurred on a processing unit at a petroleum refinery located in the western United States.  This incident involved the failure of equipment that resulted in the catastrophic loss of containment and release of hydrocarbons. The refinery had previously undergone a change in ownership, resulting in the original owner (who initially designed, constructed, started up and operated the refinery) selling to another company (current owner). no longer owning and operating the refinery when the incident actually occurred. The review evaluated whether the processing unit was engineered, operated, inspected, and maintained in accordance with its design parameters, relevant industry practices, and applicable regulations; both by the original owner and the current owner. An examination was made of the pertinent unit operation, production, inspection and maintenance records, which were then compared with design specifications, throughout the period of the unit’s operation.

During the analysis, it was determined that over the years, both owners modified the unit’s original design in order to increase production capacity.  Changes to operating conditions included increasing flow rates and raising temperatures.  These changes resulted in the process equipment being operated in a manner more severe than originally intended. The evaluation included reviewing industry standards and practices and government regulations that were in affect at the time of each change. Following the evaluation, Mr. Schrader was able to determine which of the owners was responsible for making changes, evaluating the risks associated with the changes, and addressing any increased risks that led to the incident. His findings and opinions were then presented in an expert report which proved of assistance in reaching an acceptable settlement of this matter.