During a routine pressure test earlier this month, a 16-inch natural gas pipeline exploded, sending flames shooting up to 250 feet in the air at a West Texas Gas site. Thankfully, no one was injured.
A nearby welding shop was charred and at least one onlooker noted that the burst pipeline could have easily been a tragedy had it happened a few hours earlier, when workers were still at the welding shop. The streets were charred, signs were burned and metal poles were twisted from the heat and fire caused by the ruptured pipeline.
The explosion occurred just outside the fence of the DCP Midstream main plant in Goldsmith, Texas. Four workers were evacuated without injury after the nearby explosion.
Questions about whether the pipeline was defective or worn down from age or whether it had been hit remain unanswered as the explosion is investigated. The Texas Railroad Commission is leading the investigation into the cause of the explosion.
Dangers Of Natural Gas Pipeline Explosions
Roughly every four days, three “significant pipeline incidents” occur in the United States, according to a recent report by The Christian Science Monitor. That totals just under 6,000 “lower level” natural gas pipeline events since 1992.
Pipeline explosions have fatally injured 373 people in the United States and caused property damage totaling $6 billion in that timeframe, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).
Gas leaks and pipeline ruptures across the country have been blamed both on aging systems and the growing network of lines throughout the country. But, despite recent explosions throughout the U.S., pipelines are considered by many as safer modes of transporting natural gas than tankers or trains.
Source: CBS 7, “UPDATE: Pipeline Explosion Investigation 12/6/12,” December 6, 2012