Nationwide Natural Gas Explosion and Leak Roundup

Mar 30th, 2011 | By Mark | Category: Lead Articles, Natural Gas Explosions

NatGas Consulting

Over in Allentown, PA, where a natural gas explosion killed five people, U.S. Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood will tour the site on Monday, according to the Allentown Morning Call. LaHood is expected to announce that the Obama administration is including an increase in funding for natural gas pipeline safety inspections in the 2012 budget.

The Morning Call article notes that “the condition of the cast-iron gas pipeline snaking through Allentown remains a top concern for city residents and politicians. The cracked pipe dug up five days after the explosion at 13th and Allen streets dates to 1928 and has been sent to a New Jersey laboratory for testing.

Also in connection with the Allentown natural gas explosion, a columnist with the Patch makes a few recommendations about lessons that can be learned from the Allentown incident.

Also in Pennsylvania, Sen. Bob Casey is calling for the federal Department of Energy to assist state and local agencies with their investigations into a pair of recent explosions attributed to natural gas that destroyed two houses in the northwestern part of the state, according to

Sen. Casey noted, in a letter first reported on in the Bradford Era, that there is a growing belief that the explosions were triggered by “migrating” natural gas released in connection with natural gas drilling known as “fracking.”

The story quotes Casey’s letter saying, “The belief that the source of the explosions is some type of thermogenic gas migration caused by extensive drilling appears to be widespread” and notes that Casey’s letter “detailed not just the house explosions, but other “nonresidential incidents” in nearby Mount Jewett Borough and a “well ignition” in the same general area.”

And out in California, some state and local officials are criticizing the penalties levied against PG&E bystate regulators, saying that it’s not tough enough on the company responsible for the massive Sept. 9, 2010, natural gas explosion that destroyed several city blocks in San Bruno, CA, killing eight people and leveling 37 homes.

PG&E manhole cover similar to the one that was launched 15 feet into the air as a result of an explosion in a PG&E pipeline in downtown San Francisco. Photo by i_follow via Flickr.

In San Francisco, another explosion in a PG&E pipeline launched a manhole cover 15 feet into the air at the corner of Grant Ave. and Post St. in downtown San Francisco on Monday. PG&E officials downplayed the incident, noting that no one was injured and that PG&E is currently working to replace the existing manhole covers with new models that won’t launch so high into the air in future explosions.

In Ohio, the investigation continues into the cause of a massive natural gas explosion that occurred on Feb. 10, 2010 in Hanoverton, OH in a pipeline owned and operated by El Paso Pipeline Group. WEWS-TV quotes El Paso Pipeline Group spokesperson Richard Wheatley saying that “the explosion involved a 36-inch, buried transmission line that carries natural gas through the region” and adding that mechanisms in the section that “failed” automatically shut off the segment and the residual gas burned off.

In Iowa, a natural gas leak forced students to evacuate their school.

On Monday, a pair of natural gas leaks forced evacuations in Augusta, GA. Officials are still investigating the cause of those natural gas leaks.

In New Ulm, Minnesota, residents grew concerned after they noticed the strong smell of gas and bubbles coming from the Cottonwood River. Investigating emergency personnel discovered that a natural gas line had broken and cracked. The New Ulm Journal quotes New Ulm Public Utilities Engineer Pat Wrase as saying that “the exact location of the break in the pipe has not yet been determined, and that it is expected that it will be located close to the Cottonwood Bridge, similar to the gas leak that occurred last year.” (emphasis ours).

And, as always, this account does not include the literally dozens of natural gas leaks that occur routinely when construction crews or other work crews rupture gas lines during the course of their projects. If we tried to count those, too, your eyes would glaze over and you’d stop reading.

We’d like you to keep reading.

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