This Week In Natural Gas Leaks and Explosions – April 15, 2013

Apr 16th, 2013 | By Mark | Category: Lead Articles, Natural Gas Explosions

NatGas Consulting

It seems a bit tone-deaf, at best, to write about natural gas explosions after what happened in Boston, Massachusetts, yesterday, Patriots’ Day, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who were hurt or killed in yesterday’s Boston Marathon bombing, as well as their families and friends, but our motto here is: Mourn the dead, and fight like hell for the living.

And so we carry on.

And so did the wave of destruction caused by natural gas leaks and explosions.

This map shows Eureka Hunter natural gas gathering and processing operations in Ohio and West Virginia. A fire at a compressor station in Tyler, West Virginia, earlier this week killed two employees and injured two others.

Two workers injured in an explosion at a natural gas compressor station in Tyler County, West Virginia, on Thursday, April 11, died as a result of their injuries in the days after the blast, according to recent media accounts. The first, 56-year-old Bruce Phipps of Marietta, OH, died late Friday night, according to the Tyler County Sheriff’s office, and the second, Raymond Miller, 43, of Jeanette, PA, died on Monday at the West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh. Two other workers suffered injuries in the explosion and subsequent fire.

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Investigating authorities have stated that the explosion occurred at natural gas compressor station owned and operated by Eureka Hunter Pipeline LLC, but Eureka Hunter’s corporate overlords, Magnum Hunter Resources, in a press release issued the day after the incident, characterized the blaze as a “flash fire” that occurred at a “pig receiving station.”

Magnum Hunter didn’t bother to define what a “pig” is in this context, but can safely say, with authority, that the term “pig” in this case refers to a device used to inspect or clean pipelines. They’ve even got their own trade association.

The cause of an explosion that destroyed a duplex in Fon du Lac, Wisconsin, on Thursday, April 11, remains undetermined, but the general manager of the real estate company that owned the home said he was told that the explosion was caused by natural gas, according to a recent media report. There was no one in the home at the time of the explosion, but a neighbor in the next house was treated for minor injuries suffered in connection with the explosion.

A home in Athens, Kansas, owned by Atlanta Braves Baseball-Hall-of-Famer-to-be Chipper Jones exploded Sunday, April 14, just hours after the now-retired superstar had visited the house. Jones, who said he used the home when he went hunting in Kansas, was not inside when the explosion occurred.

A photo of a home owned by former Atlanta Braves' ballplayer Chipper Jones, posted to his Twitter feed shortly after the buidling exploded in a blast caused by natural gas.

Jones tweeted after the blast: “Gas line blew up. Blew the windows all the way across the street. No one was there, thank goodness! Guess we will be finding a new place.” You can follow Jones’ Twitter feed here.

The captain of a Louisiana tugboat died on Friday, April 12, according to recent media reports, succumbing to severe burns he had suffered on March 12, after his boat struck a natural gas pipeline and touched off an inferno that burned for days.

Chad Breaux was one of four crewmen aboard a 47-foot tugboat pulling a 154-foot barge in Bayou Perot, 30 miles south of New Orleans, when it struck a Chevron pipeline, WDSU-TV, New Orleans, said.

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. Internal PG&E memos, which have come to light in connection with legal proceedings resulting from the San Bruno explosion, reveal that PG&E engineers told company executives years before the blast that major cuts in pipeline safety spending could endanger the public safety.

And, finally, nearly three years before a massive natural gas pipeline explosion destroyed a neighborhood in San Bruno, CA, PG&E engineers told company executives that they were cutting spending on pipeline safety so deeply that they were putting the public safety at risk, according to a recent story by San Francisco Chronicle reporter Jaxon Van Derbeken.

Van Derbeken based his story on confidential, internal PG&E memos made public in connection with ongoing hearings about the size of the fine that PG&E will pay as a result of the Sept. 9, 2010, explosion, which killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.

From Van Derbeken’s story:

From 2007 through 2010, the documents show, PG&E executives slashed more than $50million from company engineers’ spending proposals. In most cases, the authors of the confidential documents about the spending were not identified or their names were redacted.

In one planning document, engineers objected to cuts in training and staffing for gas transmission system operators and controllers. The performance and training of those operators were faulted in the federal investigation into the San Bruno disaster.

Planned cuts in training, PG&E gas system engineers warned in 2009, could lead to “operator errors, which can impact system reliability and safety.”

Another document, a PG&E report on gas transmission expenses in July 2009, laid out the challenges to the company’s “2010 spending reduction plan.” Among them was managing “pipeline reliability while not doing preventative and corrective projects,” according to the report, written by engineers with PG&E’s gas transmission and distribution division.

And, as always, this round-up of natural gas leaks and explosions is not meant to be comprehensive; merely representative of the ongoing destruction that occurs routinely throughout the country, devastation that can be laid directly at the feet of the natural gas industry. Moreover, it does not include those incidents that result from the actions of construction crews or excavation. Were we to include those incidents as well, this feature would be far too long, trying the patience of even the most indulgent reader.

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