This Week In Natural Gas Leaks and Explosions – April 25, 2011Apr 25th, 2011 | By admin | Category: Lead Articles, Natural Gas Explosions, Natural Gas Leaks
By naturalgaswatch.org staff.
A rundown of the leaks and explosions that made headlines around the country during the past week.
The Latest: A few minutes after 2 a.m. this morning, a natural gas line in Illinois exploded in rural Scott County, forcing 100 people to evacuate the rural area, according to a report from television station WGEM. The line is owned by Pan Handle Eastern.
At about 10:45 on Sunday morning, a massive explosion leveled a home in Long Island, NY, in the small town of Brentwood in Suffolk County, according to multiple media reports. Fortunately, the house that was destroyed was vacant at the time. The blast reportedly blew out the windows of neighboring homes and sent personal effects flying at such velocity that an umbrella knifed into a nearby tree. Twenty-one people were injured in the explosion.
“Witnesses said a raging jet of flame shot skyward right after the blast, and gas could be heard hissing loudly from a ruptured line,” according to the New York Post
Authorities investigating the blast said they have not yet determined the cause of the explosion, but one blogger is reporting that natural gas is the suspected cause and that a small gas leak was reported and repaired in the home only two weeks earlier.
On Saturday, April 16 another vacant home, this one in Minnesota, was blown to bits by a natural gas explosion in the town of Maple Grove.
According to Minnlocal.com, Maple Grove Fire Chief Scott Anderson said firefighters were called to the corner of 95th Avenue North and Saratoga Lane North at 7:15 a.m. on report of an explosion and fire.
“It’s pretty obvious it was a gas explosion,” Anderson was quoted by the website as saying. “The house will be a total loss.”
Operators, regulators and public advocates stress that in general, pipelines are one of the safest modes of fuel transportation. For instance, the number of deaths attributed to pipeline accidents doesn’t come close to the number of people who die in car wrecks every year, according to the Montana Public Service Commission.
Knowing whether any specific pipeline underfoot is safe, though, is another matter.
“The public is seeing all these tragedies. That’s an absolutely fair question for the public to ask,” said Richard Kuprewicz, a national expert on pipeline matters and president of Accufacts Inc. “(But) I don’t think enough states or the federal government are making enough information available for anybody to reach that conclusion.”
In some instances, records for older pipes may not even exist.
That, in fact, seems to be the case out in California, where PG&E recently notified the states Public Utilities Commission that it could not locate all the records pertaining the company’s pipelines that the agency had requested.
In rural Pennsylvania a natural gas well engaged in fracking — a process that whereby a thousands of gallons of toxic fluids are injected deep underground to break up rock formations and free natural gas deposits trapped within — exploded late Tuesday night.
The explosion sent thousands of gallons of contaminant cascading over Pennsylvania farmland and into a nearby creek.
Chesapeake Energy, the company that owns the well, has suspended all fracking operations in the area until the cause of the explosion can be determined.
From the Workplace Accident Department: this story notes that the fossil fuel industry has a nasty habit of killing and injuring its workers, with natural gas and coal mining specifically being the biggest killers. More than 3,800 coal miners have been killed on the jobs since 1968. Likewise, 892 natural gas workers have been killed on the jobs in that same time period. Oil workers, on the other hand, are much more likely to get injured instead of killed. Click the link and check out the graphic.
And, finally, late last week, two more California natural gas utilities, following that time-honored PR tactic of putting out bad news late on a Friday afternoon, admitted that they lack crucial data about the integrity of their natural gas pipeline infrastructures.
Natural Gas Leaks
In Knoxville, TN, an SUV crashed into a building, fracturing the gas main. The town’s Fire Department responded, and Knoxville Fire Department Capt. Scott Calloway told the Knoxville News Sentinel, “Any time you’re dealing with natural gas, it has the potential to be a serious issue, especially in the last couple years with the explosions that we’ve had. People have kind of misjudged gas, that it’s not as dangerous as what the public is thinking that it is.”
On Friday evening of April 22, a natural gas leak in a Westtown, PA, shopping center sent employees and customers scurrying for safety while firefighters and utility workers tried to shut off the lines.
Finally, in Plainview, NY, on Long Island, firefighters evacuated a business on Friday, April 22, due to a natural gas leak. Authorities are investigating the cause of the leak.
And remember, as always, this report does not include the numerous natural gas leaks caused by construction crews striking pipelines during excavation projects.
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