Explosion & Fire on Spectra 30 inch Gas Pipeline in Western Pennsylvania

by Duane Nichols on May 1, 2016

Western PA -- Spectra 30" pipeline fire

No cause found yet in Westmoreland County gas explosion

From an Article by Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 30, 2016

Robert Rosatti turned the bend in his truck Friday morning and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “The whole way across my windshield I could see nothing but fire.”

“When I came around the corner it was like I was looking into hell,” the Forbes Road Fire Department chief related Saturday, a day after a fiery natural gas pipeline explosion shook Salem Township in Westmoreland County, severely burning one man and damaging a handful of houses.

In the minutes after the explosion, the heat was so intense that Mr. Rossati, one of the first to arrive at the scene, couldn’t get out of his truck. He stayed inside for 20 minutes until the wind shifted, providing some relief.

The heat damaged the front grill of his truck even though it was parked nearly half a mile from the explosion and melted the siding of a nearby house on Route 819. Firefighters from the volunteer department, fearing that the home was going to ignite, quickly positioned a hose to douse it with water until the danger passed.

Mr. Rosatti was back at the scene Saturday. The immediate danger from the explosion of the large Texas Eastern transmission line had passed but lingering concerns remained about the gas still being siphoned from it and three other pipes in the vicinity.

While gas to all four lines was shut off after the explosion, officials spent Saturday bleeding out any that remained in the pipes. They said they hoped to have it all out by today.

“We want to do this as safely as possible,” Mr. Rosatti said at a briefing. “It’s going to take a while to draw the gas down. Our biggest concern is obviously for public safety.”

Once the gas has been removed, officials can begin inspecting the large line — 30 inches in diameter — that exploded and three others that a company official said were “tens of feet apart.”

Leading the investigation into the cause of the explosion is the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which had representatives in Salem Saturday.

Phil West, director of communications for Spectra Energy, the Houston-based parent company of Texas Eastern, said the company hasn’t been able to determine whether any of the other lines have been compromised.

Nor does it know yet what triggered the blast. In addition to finding a cause, Spectra’s focus right now, Mr. West said, is on the man who was severely burned in the explosion and the residents whose houses were impacted by it.

Five homes were damaged and one was destroyed, Mr. Rosatti said. The latter was owned by the man burned in the explosion. He was able to extricate himself from the rubble and was found running along Route 819 by emergency responders, the fire chief said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the individual and his family and we are deeply sorry,” Mr. West said. The man, whose name was not released, was taken to UPMC Mercy Hospital with burns over much of his body. His condition was not available Saturday.

Spectra has sent a community assistance team in Salem to help homeowners and others affected by the calamity, Mr. West said. “The hope is to take care of any of those issues and claims as expeditiously as possible,” he said.

Mr. West acknowledged that the affected pipe and the three others that were shut down represent a “significant piece of U.S. energy infrastructure,” particularly to the eastern part of the country.

The line that exploded was installed in 1981 and last inspected by an in-line tool in 2012. There was “nothing requiring remediation or repair” found at the time, he said.

This is the second time in a year there has been an incident involving a Texas Eastern pipeline operated by Spectra. The company also operated a 24-inch pipeline that ruptured last spring in Arkansas, closing two miles of the Arkansas River and damaging a towboat, according to the Arkansas Times. No gas was flowing through the auxiliary pipeline, which runs under the river, at the time, though there was gas in it.

Mr. West said the rupture was caused by strong river currents following a significant rainfall. He said there does not appear to be any correlation between that incident and what happened in Westmoreland County.

In Salem Township, meanwhile, the fire department is keeping the section of Route 819 in the vicinity of the blast closed until at least Monday as a precaution, Mr. Rosatti said. A day after the blast occurred, the fire chief still was stunned by its enormity. It melted a road, damaged fields and trees, and created a fireball that Mr. Rosatti will never forget.

Fire damage distance: one-half mile

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Bloomberg News May 1, 2016 at 12:43 pm

Spectra Gas Pipeline Explosion Cuts Flows to Eastern U.S.

By Tom Lohr, Bloomberg News, April 29, 2016

An explosion and fire on a major Spectra Energy Corp. pipeline that crosses half the U.S. is disrupting natural gas shipments from western Pennsylvania to the Northeast.

Crews shut off the gas feeding the flames, which burst out of Spectra’s Texas Eastern pipeline in Salem Township at about 8:30 a.m., John Poister, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said in an e-mail. The PA-DEP is investigating any effect on nearby gas wells and any environmental damage, Poister said.

While repairs will start as soon as possible, it’s unclear when service will be restored, Spectra said in a notice. The company declared force majeure at midday, sending natural gas futures surging as much as 5.6 percent on the New York Mercantile Exchange on speculation that the outage will limit supplies to the Northeast.

One of the country’s largest pipelines, Texas Eastern runs from the Gulf Coast up through the booming Marcellus and Utica shale regions all the way to New Jersey, where it hooks up with other lines into New York and New England. The Penn-Jersey section had been transporting 1.3 billion cubic feet of gas a day through the Delmont compressor in Westmoreland County, according to Het Shah, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Gas may still be able to move out of the region through an underutilized system known as the Capacity Restoration Project, which runs parallel to the Penn-Jersey system, according to BNEF analyst Joanna Wu. “That whole area is a big web of pipelines, so it will find its way to market, but in the short-term, it’s going to cut some flows,” Shah said.

The explosion created a conflagration that damaged “several” homes near the pipeline, engulfing one of them and injuring a man inside who was transported to a Pittsburgh hospital, Poister said. Residents of the area told media outlets they could feel rumbling as far as 6 miles away. Passing motorists captured images of the fiery scene and emergency crews set up a quarter-mile evacuation zone.

“Our first concern is for the safety of the community, our employees and any others who may be affected,” Phil West, a spokesman for Spectra, wrote in an e-mail. “We have activated our emergency response plan and are cooperating with authorities in our response, and we will provide more information at a later time.”


January Fire May 1, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Man Sues Utility After Natural Gas Explosion

April 28, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY – A man has filed a lawsuit claiming negligence against Oklahoma Natural Gas after he suffered serious burns from a January natural gas explosion that destroyed dozens of homes in northwest Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoman reports that the lawsuit filed by 29-year-old Jonathan Duggan earlier this month alleges that the utility company was negligent for failing to maintain or inspect the area where the explosion occurred. The suit also claims negligence for the utility’s failure to warn residents of the danger, failure to eliminate the dangerous condition, and for creating a hazard.

The utility company cited the cause of the explosion as “poor workmanship” after an internal investigation found a lack of fusion in a weld seam and a 3-inch crack in a polyethylene pipe that led to the blast.


Alyeska Pipeline May 1, 2016 at 2:04 pm

Investigation Begins Into Fire at Pipeline Pump Station

From ABC News, Associated Press, April 21, 2016

Anchorage — An investigation has started into a fire that briefly shut down the trans-Alaska pipeline.

KTUU reports (http://is.gd/3chpWi) the vent fire at pump station was extinguished early Thursday morning, and the station is offline. Non-essential personnel were evacuated to the nearby community of Coldfoot.

The 800-mile pipeline was shut down Wednesday afternoon, and resumed flowing just before midnight at a reduced flow rate.

Alyeska Pipeline Co. officials say the pipeline was returning to full flow operations Thursday, and employees are monitoring the system.

The shutdown had no economic impact to the state. Diana Hunt with the Alaska Davison of Oil and Gas says the flow of oil was delayed, not disrupted.

Alyeska also reports there was no environmental damage from the fire, and no injuries have been reported.


Somerset Co. PA February 28, 2018 at 1:17 am

Residents Evacuated at Spectra Pipeline Leak in Somerset County PA

Nearly 100 residents of Somerset County PA evacuated on Tuesday, February 20th after emergency services were notified of a high pressure leak of natural gas near Rockwood.

One resident Jena Shafer, who lives about 3 miles from the leak, said it sounded like a jet engine airplane.

The pipeline is operated by Spectra Energy, known for the tragic pipeline explosion in Salem Township back in April of 2016


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: