In BP’s Record, a History of Boldness and Costly Blunders

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...BP was born in 1908 when a rich Englishman named William Knox D’Arcy struck oil in Iran and formed the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Treating the locals as little more than imperial subjects, the company, partly owned by the British government, expanded across the region, its fortunes intertwined with those of the British Empire.

But as oil-rich countries around the world began nationalizing their oil fields, British Petroleum, as it later became known, was forced to retreat and find new strategies along with the rest of the industry.

In 1995, the British government sold the last of its stake in the company and the charismatic Mr. Browne took over.

However, Mr. Browne’s fall from grace...began on March 23, 2005, when 15 people died and more than 170 were injured in America’s worst industrial accident in a generation: a huge fire and explosion at Texas City....

Acquired by BP in the Amoco purchase, the Texas City plant was America’s second-largest refinery, turning 460,000 barrels of crude oil a day into gasoline. But the facility, built in 1934, was poorly maintained and long starved of capital investment.

“We have never seen a site where the notion ‘I could die today’ was so real,” the Telos Group, a consulting firm hired to examine conditions at the plant, said in a report two months before the accident....

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