This Week In Natural Gas Leaks and Explosions – April 23, 2012

Apr 23rd, 2012 | By Mark | Category: Lead Articles, Natural Gas Industry Information

NatGas Consulting

When all else fails, baffle ‘em with bullshit. That seems to be the gas company motto, no matter where you live.

For example, in Brooklyn, New York, where about 1,100 households lost their natural gas service on Tuesday, April 17, after a 12-inch natural gas line suffered “water intrusion” after a nearby, high-pressure water line sprung a leak, a National Grid spokeperson assured everyone that the interuption in service wasn’t because of a leak, but rather, a broken water main that had damaged the natural gas line.

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From the Sheepshead Bites website:

The incident is not related to any gas leak and there is no danger for residents, the representative noted, but service to 1,100 households on an approximately half-mile strip of Ocean Parkway means they’ve had to deploy 300 crews working around the clock for a speedy restoration.

“We want to do this safely and as quickly as possible and we appreciate the coordination of the customers in that area,” said spokesperson Karen Young.

Okay, no leak, according to the National Grid mouthpiece. But then, in the next paragraph:

Young noted that the work is a very labor intensive project. First, workers had to go door-to-door to ensure gas service is safely off in each home. Once they identified the source of the leak, which they’ve done, it must be repaired. Then the water must be pumped out of the gas lines. Finally, workers need to go door-to-door again to relight appliances in the homes.

Which is it? Leak? No leak? Only the Grid knows for sure …

Out in California, PG&E’s still finding pages of their pipeline maintenance records, which apparently were just sort of stuffed to the back of desk drawers all over the company’s headquarters.

A massive natural gas explosion on Sept. 9, 2010, killed eight people, injured more than 50 others and destroyed or damaged more than 100 homes. On Thursday, PG&E acknowledged an internal memo detailing the possiblity of faulty welds in the pipeline that exploded, years before the incident occurred.

According to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle, PG&E officials only just acknowledged to federal and state investigators that they had located a memo detailing defective welds in the San Bruno pipeline that was the site of a massive natural gas explosion in September, 2010, years before the blast occurred.

The memo said an internal PG&E investigation had determined the likely cause of the October 1988 leak was a defective seam weld: the same problem that contributed to the San Bruno blast. If the company’s investigation had found such a defect, state law would have required it to test the entire 51-mile-long pipeline years before the San Bruno incident.

The memo said an X-ray of the excavated segment of pipe where a leak was thought to be “showed the weld to be of low quality.” That segment was located near the Crystal Springs Reservoir, just off Interstate 280. Federal investigators have determined that the segment of the line that exploded in 2010 had a defective weld that dated back to 1956, when it was installed. If the company had done pipeline-wide testing after the 1988 leak, it may have discovered this defect.

A natural gas explosion in Bend, Oregon, critically injured one man and damaged area properties on Thursday, April 19, according to a recent media report from Oregon Public Broadcasting. The victim was airlifted to the Oregon Burn Center in Portland, Oregon, where he remains in critical condition.

Residents at an eastside apartment complex in Santa Rosa, California, fled their homes early Sunday morning, April 22, fearing an imminent natural gas explosion after noticing a strong natural gas odor in the immediate vicinity. According to the story in the Santa Rose Press Democrat, a broken pipe leading to a natural gas meter was the source of the leak.

A natural gas leak in Glastonbury, Connecticut, closed streets for a few hours on Wednesday, April 18.

Same story in Charleston, West Virginia, the next day.

A natural gas well blowout forced the evacuation of five homes in Bakersfield, California at around 2 a.m. on Wednesday, April 18, according to a story in the Bakersfield Californian.

From the Californian:

The incident occurred about 2 a.m. when Vaquero workers drilling a well in the Edison Oilfield hit an unexpected pocket of natural gas, Tisinger said. There were no explosions or injuries, but five nearby homes were evacuated as a precaution..

“When it first happened, it sounded almost like a jet engine,” Tisinger said. “It was really loud.”

The well is in the middle of a large farm field and as of 11 a.m., only a slight hissing noise could be heard from across the field. At that time, Vaquero crews were in the process of bringing trucks with the mud and concrete mixture to the area.

In Sacramento, California, public utility regulators on Thursday, April 19, ordered PG&E to pay a fine of nearly $20 million for failing to conduct required pipeline safety tests and failure to comply with an agency order to conduct a pipeline safety records review.

The decision by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) represents the enforcement of a ruling that was issued last year after the agency undertook a comprehensive records review following the massive pipeline explosion in San Bruno in September 2010.

And remember, this round-up of pipeline leaks and explosions from around the country doesn’t include those that were caused by construction crews or excavators. If we included incidents of that nature as well, this feature would be far, far longer than it already, depressingly, is.

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One Comment to “This Week In Natural Gas Leaks and Explosions – April 23, 2012”

  1. BC says:

    As far as National Grid the “leak” that they were referring to was the leak in the water main that caused the problem. The gas main in this area has a normal operating pressure of about 1/2 psi. When a normal water main operating at about 40 to 60 psi leaks it’s like having a high pressure hose aimed at something. Eventually it breaks through. The higher pressure water then get’s into the gas main

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