Total UK Pleads Guilty to Buncefield Explosion Charges

Published:  26 November, 2009

Oil company Total UK has admitted health and safety breaches relating to the explosion at the Buncefield oil depot in Hertfordshire in 2005 that left 43 people injured and forced 2,000 to leave their homes.

Total pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to two breaches of the Health and Safety Act and one charge of polluting water under the Water Resources Act.

The blast, believed to be the largest in peacetime Europe, occurred after a tank gauge became stuck, causing oil to overflow and a huge vapour cloud to form and ignite. The explosion measured 2.4 on the Richter scale and was so powerful that it could be heard 125 miles away.

In a statement, the company said; “Total UK regrets the unfortunate events at Buncefield in December 2005 and would like to apologise to all those affected by the incident.”

Four other companies – Hertfordshire Oil Storage, British Pipeline Agency, TAV Engineering and Motherwell Control Systems 2003 – have pleaded not guilty to charges of breaking health and safety laws. Their trial is expected to begin in April.

Image by Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

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