Israeli oil refiner Bazan Group has been fined ILS 1.3m (€332,000) after pleading guilty to several negligence and pollution offences following a serious fire at an intermediate tank at its Haifa Bay oil refinery complex in northern Israel in December 2016.
Haifa Magistrates Court accepted a plea bargain which also required the company to pledge a further ILS 2.4m (€612,000) to not commit the same offences for the next two years. Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection had brought the case, which saw Bazan Group charged with violating emissions and poisons permits, non-compliance with air quality orders, including for maximum emission values, and failure to comply with Ministry procedures.
Three company managers in charge at the time also admitted offences as part of the plea deal, under the Clean Air Law 2008 and the Hazardous Materials Law 1993, and fined between ILS 30,000 and ILS 50,000 (€7,600-12,800) each. Israeli newspapers name the managers as Yariv Gratz, Tsachi Shapira and Yaron Ovadia. Like the company, the three men were also required to pledge money to not commit the same offences for the next two years, from ILS 60,000 to ILS 100,000 (€15,300-25,500). A fourth manager was removed from the indictment.
The fire broke out in an intermediate storage tank on 25 December 2016 and burned nearly all day, engulfing Haifa Bay in black smoke, before being extinguished by some 40 fire crews. The 12,000 m3 tank reportedly contained isomerate and penthane, and Bazan Group subsidiary Oil Refineries Ltd, which runs the site, said at the time that it was only around 10% full at the time of the fire. No injuries were reported.
Investigators found that the lid of the tank had sunk into the contents, exposing 200-300 m3 of hydrocarbons to the atmosphere and releasing large amounts of flammable vapour. Fire and emergency services initially attempted to remove the lid, and then resorted to trying to disperse the isomerate by spraying water jets. Their efforts failed and the fire broke out.