Oil giant Total fined for British oil depot fire

16th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

French oil giant Total and four other companies responsible for a huge explosion at a British oil depot must pay fines and costs of more than nine million pounds (13.8 million dollars, 10.6 million euros), a court ruled Friday.

Total received the stiffest penalty for the incident five years ago at Buncefield oil depot in Hertfordshire, north of London, being ordered to pay a fine of 3.6 million pounds plus costs of 2.6 million pounds.

The December 11, 2005 explosion measured 2.4 on the Richter Scale and is considered one of the biggest blasts in peacetime Europe. It was reportedly heard as far away as France and Belgium.

It was also one of Britain's most costly industrial disasters -- and only the fact that the explosion took place early on a Sunday prevented a greater human catastrophe.

"Had the explosion happened during a working day, the loss of life may have been measured in tens or even hundreds," judge David Calvert-Smith said as he sentenced the firms at St Albans Crown Court in Hertfordshire.

Jurors heard that the extent of the environmental damage was still not known and its effects could last for decades.

Hertfordshire Oil Storage was fined 1.45 million pounds plus one million pounds costs, while British Pipeline Agency was fined 300,000 pounds plus 480,000 pounds costs.

Motherwell Control Systems 2003 and TAV Engineering were both fined 1,000 pounds each and each were ordered to pay 500 pounds in costs.

© 2010 AFP

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