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10 Most Dangerous Chemical Plants to Work At

Chemical refineries and plants are filled with volatile chemicals and byproducts traveling through hundreds of miles of pipes and tanks at high pressures. Even water (when heated into steam) is a hazard in the typical chemical plant. Plants are the sort of place where cutting corners gets people hurt or killed. The latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 300 people were injured at petroleum refineries in 2020 alone.

That’s why it’s vital to know what kind of plant management you’ll be working with. Is your company the kind that runs a safe workplace? Or do they have a higher-than-average number of fatalities at their facilities? That’s what our blog hopes to answer.

Because injury information per refinery is not public information, the following list was ranked according to total fatalities from 1995–2015 across all plants for each company.

#10: Citgo Petroleum – 3 Fatalities

With three fatalities at their Corpus Christi facility, Citgo Petroleum is the tenth most dangerous oil company on our list. The company was founded in 1912 in Oklahoma and today generates $24 billion in revenue.

Fatalities by individual facility:

  • Corpus Christi, TX: 3

#9: Chevron Texaco – 3 Fatalities

Chevron Texaco has one of the longest histories of any oil company on the planet. Founded in 1879 as Pacific Coast Oil Co., it has survived for nearly 150 years and grown to an annual revenue of $162 billion. It sits at ninth on this list (technically tied for ninth) with three fatalities at a single facility.

Fatalities by individual facility:

  • Pascagoula, MS: 3

#8: LyondellBasell – 5 fatalities

Founded in 2007, LyondellBasell is one of the youngest companies on this list. However, that means its public profile is more notable for having so many incidents in the news. Last year, a chemical leak at their La Porte facility killed 2 workers and hospitalized 30 more—a number not reflected in the figures below, since it occurred after 2015.

Fatalities by individual facility:

  • Houston, TX: 5

#7: ConocoPhillips – 6 Fatalities

Founded in 2002, ConocoPhillips is based in Houston, but it operates in 15 countries on 5 continents. It has a revenue of $45 billion, earning it a place on the Fortune 500. Despite its founding in 2002, historically ConocoPhillips contains companies as old as 147 years. Instead of numerous deaths at one facility, ConocoPhillips is notable for having at least one fatality across numerous facilities.

Fatalities by individual facility:

  • Westlake, LA: 2
  • Hartford, IL: 1
  • Wilmington, CA: 1
  • Ponca City, OK: 1
  • Old Ocean, TX: 1

#6: Marathon Petroleum – 6 Fatalities

Once a subsidiary of Marathon Oil, Marathon Petroleum became an independent company in 2011. Today, it’s the largest petroleum refinery operator in the country and ranks on the Fortune 100. Most of the company’s fatalities occurred at the Garyville facility in Louisiana, which alone would rank at #9 on this list.

Fatalities by individual facility:

  • Garyville, LA: 4
  • St Paul Park, MN: 1
  • Robinson, IL: 1

#5: Motiva Enterprises – 8 Fatalities

Once owned by Shell under the name Star Enterprises, Motiva is now fully owned by Saudi Aramco. It’s headquartered in Houston and operates a facility in Port Arthur that is the largest refinery in North America. That same facility has enough fatalities to rank on this list by itself.

Fatalities by individual facility:

  • Port Arthur, TX: 3
  • Norco, LA: 2
  • Delaware City, DE: 2
  • Convent, LA: 1

#4: Tesoro – 8 Fatalities

Tesoro is the only company on this list no longer operating as an independent company, as it was acquired by Marathon Petroleum in 2018. However, when it was an independent refinery operator, it ranked on the Fortune 100 and Fortune Global 500. It was also known as the 24th biggest polluter in the country. The 8 fatalities on its record is, astoundingly, from a single facility; 7 of those deaths were from an explosion in 2010.

Fatalities by individual facility:

  • Anacortes, WA: 8

#3: ExxonMobil – 9 Fatalities

Undoubtedly one of the most famous oil companies in the world, ExxonMobil is descended from Standard Oil—the company founded by the world-famous John D. Rockefeller. It was once the third-largest revenue producer in the world and consistently ranks in the top 10 of the Fortune 500.

It ranks high on our list as well, although for a less celebrated reason.

Fatalities by individual facility:

  • Torrance, CA: 4
  • Baytown, TX: 3
  • Beaumont, TX: 2

#2: Valero Energy Corp. – 10 Fatalities

Valero remains one of the largest US fuel producers, but it was also one of the US’ largest retailers with nearly 7,000 retail outlets throughout the world. It has a revenue of over $118 billion and is based in San Antonio. Though none of its facilities has an egregious number of fatalities, it’s notable how many facilities it owns that have seen fatal incidents since 1995.

Fatalities by individual facility:

  • Memphis, TN: 2
  • Corpus Christi, TX: 2
  • Texas City, TX: 2
  • Ardmore, OK: 1
  • Norco, LA: 1
  • Delaware City, DE: 1
  • Paulsboro, NJ: 1

#1: British Petroleum (BP) – 28 Fatalities

No, that number is not a typo—the number one most dangerous company on our list has more than 2x the fatalities of the second-place company, and nearly 10x the fatalities of the lowest-ranked companies. The vast majority of those fatalities come from the most infamous refinery accident in history: the BP Texas City refinery explosion. While not counted in this list, BP was also partially responsible for the Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010.

Our firm represented a number of workers who were harmed in that explosion, and we remain proud of our role holding BP accountable for their egregious negligence.

Fatalities by individual facility:

  • Texas City, TX: 22 (not a typo)
  • Cherry Point, WA: 2
  • Whiting, IN: 2
  • Carson, CA: 1
  • Belle Chasse, LA: 1

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