Two Hurt in Texas Gas Refinery Blast

Friday, December 4, 2015 @ 03:12 PM gHale

Ariel view of the gas refinery in flames.

Ariel view of the gas refinery in flames.

Two workers suffered minor injuries and over 250 oil workers escaped a gas refinery Thursday morning after an explosion rocked the Anadarko facility near Orla, TX.

The blast forced safety workers to evacuate people from a 10-mile radius. The black plume of smoke from the refinery was visible from as far away as the Guadalupe Mountains and the explosion could be felt 25 miles away.

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The fire broke out about 9 a.m. at the Ramsey Natural Gas Processing Plant near Orla. Western Gas Partners owns the plant, operated by Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.

John Christiansen, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation vice president of corporate communications, said the fire was still burning into the night, but had diminished and had been contained to one area of the plant. Emergency scanner traffic indicated firefighters would stay at the site overnight to ensure any remaining fire burned safely.

A damage estimate was not available. It is unknown when the plant will resume full operation.

Christiansen said he cannot confirm the cause of the explosion or any events surrounding it until Anadarko investigators arrive on site.

Midland TV station KWES reported several safety violations ended up discovered during a planned inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The OSHA inspection resulted in five violations and the company also ended up cited for issues related to how they handled highly hazardous chemicals.

The more than 250 workers were in the area at the time of the explosion. They all evacuated by bus to Carlsbad’s Walter Gerrells Performing Arts Center. Workers in nearby areas also ended up evacuated.

Christiansen said they have confirmed two minor injuries from the incident, however, Capt. Lance Bateman with the New Mexico State Police said he heard reports that four people had minor injuries.

Reports came in residents could hear the explosion up to 25 miles away. Witnesses closer to the plant said they could feel its impact.

Reeves County Sheriff Art Granado said their department was scrambling to get details after the explosion. “It’s been crazy,” Granado said. “People heard it 25 miles out. It was a big boom.”

Other officers on scene with the Texas State Police said they could see the fire’s flames from the Guadalupe Mountains.

As a precautionary measure, officials closed U.S. Highway 285 northbound and southbound toward the area of the explosion for several hours.

Additional county roads in Reeves County also closed in the surrounding area.

Workers also shut off surrounding high pressure gas lines going in and out of the plant, so the pressure build-up would decrease and to prevent a secondary explosion from happening.

Capt. Alan Griffith with the Eddy County Sheriff’s Office said that he had sent out his sergeant and three deputies to assist Reeves County with the incident.

“My deputies said it was a big fire and that there was a lot of smoke,” Griffith said. “We assisted the Texas Department of Public Safety and the state police with evacuating people and traffic control.”

The New Mexico State Police, the Texas State Police and the New Mexico Department of Transportation were also at the scene, and multiple fire departments, including Otis Volunteer Fire Department and the Carlsbad Fire Department were assisting with the fire.

Christiansen also said the company was appreciative of the quick and comprehensive respond of local sheriff’s office and fire departments.

“(We are) thankful that all of our workers are safe and accounted for,” he said. “We will provide additional information as appropriate.”

Until a full assessment of the plant’s damage can happen, the plant will not be able to resume operations.