More natural gas pipeline explosions in Texas

After Monday’s deadly explosion of a pipeline in Johnson County, there was another explosion in the Panhandle today.  From the Austin-American Statesman:

The blast near Darrouzett, just south of the Oklahoma border, was the second fatal natural gas explosion in Texas in as many days. On Monday, a worker was killed when a utility crew accidentally hit and ruptured a natural gas line in rural Johnson County, about 30 miles south of Fort Worth.

Tuesday’s blast involved a crew that was removing clay for a dirt-contracting company, Lipscomb County Sheriff James Robertson said in a news release. The explosion happened when a bulldozer struck a pipeline.


Three other workers were injured. One was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Oklahoma City. Two others escaped with injuries that were not considered life-threatening.

The utility crew involved in Monday’s explosion worked for Oklahoma-based C&H Power Line Construction Services. Fred Haag, the company’s chief operating officer, said the crew followed the proper procedures in locating the line before digging. It used a survey map and made calls verifying the line location, he said.


“Even at night, the soles of their shoes were melting because it was still extremely hot,” said Jack Snow, Johnson County’s emergency management coordinator.

At least seven of the other 13 workers who had been close to the site were treated at hospitals, mostly for burns to their necks and arms as they ran away from the massive fireball, Haag said. Only one worker remained hospitalized Tuesday, he said.

A 23-member crew that had been working in the area for several months was drilling a hole Monday for an 80- to 120-foot utility pole when the gas line was struck and ruptured, sending a massive fireball into the air that burned out about two hours later after the gas flow was shut off.


After investigators finish looking over the site, workers will repair the ruptured pipeline, which is expected to take several days, said Houston-based Enterprise Products Partners LP, which partially owns the 36-inch-diameter line. It is a 395-mile segment of a pipeline extending from western to eastern Texas, the company said in a Tuesday news release.

Unlike other cases (BP oil spill, Massey mine explosion, etc) this does not look like a problem of lax oversight, but merely the inherent dangers of fossil fuels.  As I wrote in a editor’s note in Ali’s post:

All of this comes back to our reliance on fossil fuels and regulation. Whether it’s oil, coal, or even natural gas, there are inherent risks in extracting these fuels from the earth and dangerous, toxic emissions that come from burning them.  To date, no one has been killed in a “wind spill” or “solar spill.” We ultimately need less of the fossil fuel resources, no matter their source, and more renewables.  Oftentimes small government advocates and conservatives warn against regulation because of the cost it can create.  We never advocate for regulation merely for the sake of regulation, but we NEED smart regulation that places a premium on human life and quality of life over the search for more corporate profits. All of these stories have this theme in common: common sense regulation through a smart regulatory agency, which is something we have lacked from TCEQ.