Ministry files charge against Shell for safety lapses that led to Pulau Bukom fire

Singapores’ Ministry of Manpower has filed a charge against Shell Eastern Petroleum for safety lapses that caused a fire at Shell's Pulau Bukom oil refinery last September. A fire broke out at a pump house in Shells refinery on 28 September, and spread rapidly with multiple explosions. As per, the Ministry of Manpower's investigations revealed that Shell was conducting maintenance works on a pipeline to remove petroleum products. The pipeline originated from a Naphtha tank and passed through a pump house, where petroleum products were mixed and blended. Shell had used an "open draining" method that allowed flammable gases to be released into the air. The flow of naphtha into a plastic tray could have accumulated static charges, which could produce sparks that ignite the flammable gases. Shell also did not deploy portable gas monitors, which would have alerted staff to dangerous levels of flammable gases. The fire was fully extinguished on 29 September 2011 after 32 hours of fire-fighting. There were no serious injuries although the pump house was badly damaged and the Bukom refinery had to be temporarily shut down. But for failing to ensure the safety of its processes and the premises itself, Shell could be fined up to $500,000 if convicted under the Workplace Safety and Health Act. The case will be heard in the Subordinate Courts on 25 September.
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