After 5 Days, Gas Plant Still Burning

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 @ 01:04 PM gHale

A small fire continued to burn at a western Wyoming natural gas processing plant Monday, five days after an explosion forced the evacuation of a nearby town and shut down the facility.

While the fire has shrunk quite a bit since the original inferno broke out, workers at the Tulsa, OK-based Williams Partners facility were allowing the blaze to burn to consume remaining gases, a company spokesman said.

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“It’s completely under our control. It’s not damaging any equipment,” said company spokesman, George Angerbauer. “We have personnel on site who are assessing the rest of the facility to determine operability and what it will take to get us back up and running.”

He said he wasn’t sure how long that would take.

A company release Monday said only one of the plant’s five processing units suffered damage. The remaining four would be able to process 1.1 billion cubic feet a day, or the entire volume of gas available for processing at the plant, according to the company.

The plant’s capacity is 1.5 billion cubic feet.

Nobody was hurt in Wednesday’s explosion, which forced the evacuation of nearby Opal, population 95. Residents were able to return home Thursday.

The explosion happened in a cryogenic processing tower, a device that chills gas to remove impurities. Natural gas escaped and ignited and what caused the leak and ignition remained under investigation, according to the release.

The plant separated carbon dioxide and other gases from the methane produced by many of the thousands of gas wells scattered across western Wyoming and northern Utah.

The Pinedale Anticline and Jonah gas fields north of Opal are among the most productive in the U.S.

Operators of nearby gas fields said they avoided disruption by diverting their production through other processing plants in southwest Wyoming.

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