WY Natural Gas Pipeline Explodes

Monday, July 25, 2011 @ 05:07 PM gHale


In another in a series of pipeline incidents, a natural gas pipeline west of Gillette, WY, exploded shaking nearby homes and echoed at least 30 miles away, officials said.

The blast ripped open a 60-foot section of the Bison Pipeline and shot several pieces of 30-inch-diameter pipe around the bluffs on land about 20 miles west of Gillette at about 7:30 p.m. There were no injuries or property damage, officials said.

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Several residents in and near Gillette dialed emergency dispatchers to report “sounds of rockets going off, whooshing sounds and some explosions,” said David King, Campbell County Emergency Management Agency coordinator.

The roaring stopped as the pipeline system detected the drop in pressure from the rupture and closed off the flow of gas within 15 minutes of the breach, said Terry Cunha, spokesman for TransCanada Corp., which owns the pipeline.

King, as well as other county emergency responders traveled to the site, but waited for a TransCanada team to check the area for natural gas pockets before anyone got close to the explosion site — a crater in the ground and pipeline pieces blew clear of the pipe trench.

A 40-foot piece of the pipe, split along its length and spread open with jagged ends, lay almost 70 feet away from the pipeline path, said Rod Warne, Campbell County Fire Department assistant chief, who visited the site.

It’s not yet clear what caused the pipeline to explode, and there’s no clear timeline for when the company will rebuild the line and get it back into use, said Cunha, the TransCanada spokesman.

“Unfortunately this incident happened, but we’ll do a thorough review and work with regulatory agencies to investigate the cause of this and ensure we prevent it from happening again,” he said.

It’s not yet clear how much natural gas vented, but the pipeline was transporting natural gas on Wednesday at a rate of 365 million cubic feet a day, Cunha said.

The 303-mile line can transport up to 477 million cubic feet a day of natural gas from the Powder River Basin northeast through Montana to the Northern Border Pipeline in North Dakota for transport to customers in the Midwest. The pipeline went on line in January and TransCanada Corp. through its interest in TC PipeLines owns it.

While the closure of the pipeline might cause some problems for a day or two, other pipelines will quickly pick up the slack, said Brian Jeffries, executive director of the Wyoming Pipeline Authority.



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