Buildup led to deadly oil tank explosion
An explosion at an Anadarko Petroleum site near Mead that killed one man and seriously injured three others was caused by a buildup of “combustible products” from oil storage tanks that ignited, fire investigators said Friday.
Mountain View Fire Rescue Fire District says the combustible products collected in a trench dug by a group of contract workers who were excavating, welding and cutting pipe. Their equipment set off the blast.
The crew dug the trench to remove and replace piping from an oil separator that was connected to the storage tanks, according to the fire district.
Oscar Lopez Velasquez, 32, of Greeley, died in the May 25 explosion near the intersection of Colorado 66 and Colorado Boulevard in unincorporated Weld Fire officials scoured the area and found nearby homes were not at risk.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is working on an investigation into the origin and cause of the explosion and subsequent fire with the help of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Those agencies have not yet released any findings.
“The investigation was done in conjunction with OSHA,” Mountain View assistant chief Roger Rademacher said. Those ongoing investigations will go into greater detail.
The workers at the site were combining two tank facilities into one when the blast happened as part of the company’s emissions-control efforts. Anadarko said the facility was not in operation at the time of the explosion.
“We appreciate the work of the Mountain View Fire Department and will continue to work with OSHA and COGCC as they conCounty. tinue their investigation,” company spokeswoman Helen Wells said. “We are committed to learning all we can from this tragic accident to improve the safety of operations going forward.”
The fire district said in a news release that it “anticipates that OSHA may issue citations to employers for any violations of the occupational safety and health regulations it identifies in the coming months.”
Anadarko has been under scrutiny since one of its wells was linked to a deadly house explosion in Firestone on April 17. The oil tank site is about 4 miles north of the Firestone house that exploded.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper vowed after the Mead explosion to “take any necessary action to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
State oil and gas regulators asked Anadarko to perform a “root-cause” analysis of the accident to determine exactly what happened and why.