Thursday August 11th, 2005
by: Ed Mayberry, August 11, 2005 5:08:00 am
A small overnight explosion and fire in an olefins unit at a chemical plant south of Alvin owned by BP's Innovene subsidiary is the second mishap at a BP plant this week. It forced the plant's evacuation and sent a company firefighter to the hospital for treatment of heart trouble. BP spokesman Hugh Depland says the cause of the fire is sought. The blaze will be allowed to burn itself out. No cause has been determined for the incident--which comes after a heavy oil and gas leak yesterday at BP's gas oil hydrotreating unit in nearby Texas City. That leak caused a plume of smoke that covered much of the area and prompted an order for area residents to stay inside. No injuries were reported in the Texas City incident. Fifteen contractors died in a fiery March 23rd accident at the refinery. About 170 people were injured. A July 28th blast happened because contractors installed the wrong type of pipe on the resid hydrotreating unit.
All four high-pressure units at BP's Texas City refinery were being shut down following the first of two accidents this week at BP facilities. Nobody was hurt Wednesday during a heavy oil and gas leak. BP manager Colin MacLean says thorough inspections of the units will be completed before operations can resume. The shutdowns aren't expected to affect production at the 1,200-acre refinery complex. The decision to close and inspect the units was made prior to Wednesday's accident.
BP's Russian joint venture TNK-BP says authorities have cut a $792 million back tax levy by two-thirds, lowering the total bill to $246 million. The company still faces a separate $141 million tax bill for 2001, as well as ongoing audits for 2002 and 2003.
More than 1,500 American and Arab business, political and civic leaders will gather in Houston for the second U. S.-Arab Economic Forum. The three-day biennial event begins September 14th at the George R. Brown Convention Center and Hilton-Americas Hotel. Karim Alrawi is executive director of the Forum.
Invited speakers include everyone from Governor Rick Perry and Mayor Bill White to President Bush and newly-crowned King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
Alrawi says the Forum addresses transparency and accountability, trade infrastructure and partnerships and empowering women through economics, among other topics. He says the Forum will focus on improving economic ties and using the economy as a source of societal change.
Alrawi says Arab investments in U. S. businesses stand at over $1.2 trillion dollars.
The U. S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed an earlier judgment finalizing the federal permit for the Bayport Container and Cruise Terminal. The ruling upholds U. S. District Court Judge Vanessa Gilmore's decision to allow construction to proceed and denies motions filed by opponents of the $1.2 billion project. Construction of the first phase began in June 2004 and is targeted for completion by next summer. The project had been challenged by the Galveston Bay Conservation and Preservation Association and the cities of Shoreacres, Taylor Lake Village and Seabrook.
Kelsey-Seybold is opening its new medical and diagnostic center next Monday on Cypress Woods Medical Drive in Spring. Kelsey is closing its two current Spring and Champions locations this week, and staff members will work at the new facility. The new site includes diagnostic services, a pharmacy, MRI, CT scans and digital radiology.
How important can an internet site be for a business? Continental Airlines says ticket sales from its web site hit a record $2 billion for the 12 months ended in July, after reaching a daily high last month of $8.5 million. The carrier says the record daily volume is equal to 34 percent of the worldwide passenger sales volume that it gets from all sources in an average day. More than 30 percent of its domestic tickets are now sold online.
The U. S. Department of Labor says Medrecon Ltd. of Bellaire, doing business as Medical Research Consultants, has paid 49 current and former transcribers and typists $118,406 in back wages for overtime violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. And A Abana Insurance Services has agreed to pay $89,622 in back wages to 56 current and former sales representatives in Houston and Beaumont for minimum wage and overtime violations.
Merck's head of clinical trials says consumers would have no new drugs if all safety risks had to be eliminated first. Dr. Alise Reicin's was back on the stand today in the Angleton civil trial over the 2001 death of a Texan who'd taken Vioxx. Robert Ernst's widow is suing Merck. Reicin told jurors that the company does "post-market surveillance''--continued monitoring and testing once the product is for sale. Such testing led to Merck's decision to pull Vioxx from the market last year. A study showed the painkiller could double risk of heart attack or stroke if taken for 18 months or longer. Reicin says safety was paramount in 58 clinical trials involving 10,000 patients that were done before Vioxx won approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Vioxx went on the market in 1999.
A second cement plant in Midlothian has agreed to limit air pollution that affects the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In a tentative agreement with two environmental groups and 22 Midlothian residents, Texas Industries Incorporated will operate its pollution control device year round. The city's largest cement maker had requested the state allow it to turn off the device for six months each year to save on high natural gas costs. The device controls hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and sulfur. Another cement plant, Holcim Incorporated, agreed last week to limit nitrogen oxides following a challenge by the two environmental groups, Blue Skies Alliance and Downwinders at Risk. Nitrogen oxide forms ozone and smog.
Union pilots have filed a grievance against Northwest Airlines. The filing came yesterday after the airline used champion air to fly a scheduled Northwest flight from Detroit to Dallas-Fort Worth and back. Northwest is Michigan's largest passenger air carrier. It has said it could use Champion airplanes and pilots as part of a contingency plan if its mechanics go on strike next week. Will Holman of the Northwest chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association calls the use of champion "a clear violation'' of the pilots' contract at Northwest. Northwest says the airline has activated a portion of its contingency plan due to an abnormally high level of aircraft currently out of service.
Typing on a Das keyboard is a lot like typing on any other computer keyboard--except the keys are blank. Most people, especially those who rely on the slow but steady hunt-and-peck technique, might consider that a problem. Not Daniel Guermeur, the chief executive of Austin-based Metadot Corporation. The self-proclaimed "uber geek'' says he first came up with the idea for a blank keyboard while attending Stanford University in 1989. It was there the French native noticed others typing much faster than he was. He decided that he could be much more efficient if he could improve his typing skills. Two years ago, he built a prototype to test his theory that a blank keyboard would force him to become a better typist. After many people asked him where he bought it, he decided to start making them commercially. Recently, Guermeur began selling the keyboards for $80. The black, enhanced USB keyboard has 104 keys--all of them blank--in a wedge-shaped design reminiscent of the fabled IBM Model M. That keyboard was considered by some to have been the greatest ever offered--with its spring-loaded, clicking keys.