Buildup led to deadly oil tank ex­plo­sion

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Jesse Paul RJ San­gosti, The Denver Post Jesse Paul: 303-954-1733, jpaul@den­ver­post.com or @JesseAPaul

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.

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