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Around 5:30am on the 11 December 2005, an industrial petrol storage tank operated by HOSL
started to overflow, in part due to a failure of two critical safety systems - an internal fuel levels gauge and the independent cut off switch.
It was alleged in court that HOSL
"manifestly failed" in its duty to ensure the site was safe.
Total had claimed oil firm Chevron should share liability as they co-owned the depot in a joint venture called Hertfordshire Oil Storage Ltd (HOSL), although Total operated it.
In contrast, Mr Justice Steel found although HOSL was the nominated operator in some agreements between Total and Chevron, it had no employees.
Site owner Hertfordshire Oil Storage Limited (HOSL
), said it was working with the investigation to prevent a repeat of the explosion.
Hertfordshire Oil Storage Limited (HOSL
) was also found guilty of failing to prevent major accidents and limit their effects - a verdict which can now be reported.
The devastating incident at the Hertfordshire Oil Storage Ltd (HOSL) depot scarred the area indelibly, and left engineers asking how it could have happened.
The HOSL facility is irreparably damaged, but a BP storage depot just across the road from the gutted site is set to resume operations in the next few months.
More than six weeks on some people have still not returned home and the depot's main operating company, Hertfordshire Oil Storage Ltd (HOSL
), has made no offer of compensation.