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Shell, Chevron, BP subsidiaries and Total face HSE charges over Buncefield explosion

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Total to face trial over fuel depot explosion

By Michael Peel and Megan Murphy

Published: December 2 2008 02:00 | Last updated: December 2 2008 02:00

Total, the French oil multinational, will be prosecuted along with four other companies over a giant Hertfordshire fuel depot blast that has already landed it with a compensation bill of up to £700m.

The five businesses – whose owners include Chevron of the US, BP and Royal Dutch Shell – faced health and safety charges carrying the threat of unlimited fines, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive said yesterday.

Lawyers say the companies could pay penalties totalling many millions if they are convicted over the explosion at the Buncefield depot, which triggered Europe’s biggest peace-time blaze.

The businesses – Total UK, Hertfordshire Oil Storage, British Pipeline Agency, TAV Engineering and Motherwell Control Systems 2003 – will appear in court in January.

Hertfordshire Oil, which is 60 per cent owned by Total and 40 per cent by Chevron, ran the Buncefield terminal, while the three other companies supplied equipment or services to the facility. British Pipeline Agency is a joint venture between BP and Shell.

Total and Chevron are embroiled in a separate civil lawsuit over who is to blame for the December 2005 explosion, which injured 43 people and caused damage worth hundreds of millions of pounds. Total claims the Hertfordshire Oil joint venture is responsible for compensating businesses and residents, meaning Chevron should pay as much as 40 per cent of the final bill.

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