1 Killed, 1 Hurt in NM Battery Tank Blaze

Friday, July 20, 2018 @ 05:07 PM gHale

An oilfield worker was killed and another injured after a WPX Energy tank battery caught fire Wednesday off U.S. Refinery Road near Loving, NM.

The fire was believed to have started at about 12:45 p.m., said WPX Energy spokesperson, Kelly Swan.

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He said a safety perimeter was immediately established for emergency response activities. 

At about 4 p.m., Swan said the fire was contained at the site, but not yet fully extinguished. 

Both victims were employees at separate companies working at the WPX facility, he said. 

Swan could not identify the victims, or the extent of the injuries they sustained. 

No drilling or hydraulic fracturing activities were taking place at the time of the incident, Swan said. 

The facility contains a saltwater disposal well for oil byproducts from extraction operations, along with injection pumps and storage tanks. 

Eleven tanks were involved in the fire. Eight held produced water. Two held residue oil and another held an oil separation unit.

Following the incident, oil wells that feed into the facility from remote sites were shut in, read a WPX news release. 

“The oil and gas industry is booming right now,” said Lt. Matt Hutchinson with the Sheriff’s Office. “Unfortunately, incidents like this do occur. The oilfield can be a very dangerous job.”

The company also assisted in providing water to fight the fire, Swan said, and is working with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration to evaluate the incident.

“This is a serious situation that resulted in the worst possible outcome, which is loss of life,” Swan said. “Human life matters more than anything else, and we will certainly work with the authorities to find answers as quickly as we can. Everyone involved has a heavy heart today. The oil patch is a close-knit community where people care deeply about each other and the important work they do.”

Tank batteries are used to hold crude oil and other – often flammable – products during transport in the oilfield. 

The facility holds a saltwater disposal well for oilfield byproduct from production operations, with supporting equipment on the surface such as injection pumps and storage tanks.

WPX has 70 employees in New Mexico supporting the company’s operations in the Permian Basin.



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