Blast at U.S. LNG site casts spotlight on natural gas safety
cities increasingly reliant on the clean-burning fuel. At least a dozen new U.S. LNG export facilities are seeking government approval, and some have faced opposition on safety grounds.
Early Monday, a “processing vessel” at the Williams facility near the small town of Plymouth, Washington, exploded, spraying chunks of shrapnel as heavy as 250 pounds as far as 300 yards, according to local emergency responders.
The flying debris pierced the double walls of a 134-foot LNG tank on site, causing leaks. Five workers were injured, and local responders warned that vapors from the leaks could trigger a more devastating, second explosion. A county fire department spokesman said authorities were concerned a second blast could level a 0.75 mile “lethal zone” around the plant. Everyone within a two-mile radius of the site was evacuated, and a bomb-squad robot was deployed to snap photos of the damaged tank to avoid putting workers at further risk. Some who did approach were reportedly sickened by fumes.
By late Tuesday residents were allowed to return and responders said the risk of a secondary explosion had been averted. Williams is investigating the incident alongside government agencies. What caused the explosion is not clear.
A line of trucks carrying water to Natural gas rigs make their way across the sprawling network of two lane roads between small towns to make almost constant deliveries to continue the hydraulic fracturing process used to gather natural gas in Monroeton, Pennsylvania, January 13, 2013.