UPDATE: Pipeline blast near McAllen kills 30

Tuesday morning a pipeline exploded in near McAllen, Texas killing 30 people and injuring over 40, some seriously.

Executives said a valve apparently failed as workers performed routine testing where pipelines from gas wells in the Burgos basin converge near the border with Texas. The plant distributes the gas into a processing plant next door that produces fuel for domestic use.

Mexico blast a blow to Pemex’s improving safety
Posted: Sep 20, 2012 12:52 AM CDT Updated: Sep 20, 2012 5:12 PM CDT
By MARK STEVENSON
Associated Press

My notes from the PSYOPS conference:

43:43  Question from moderator: Bar is set so high by the public. “Energy production is a contact sport. It’s like going to a football game and not expecting–ever–a player to be left on the field, pardon me, but a graphic  hit. Add to that, it’s a combustible sport, that’s why we want the energy–because it catches fire—and I’m wondering if there’s anything we can do with that context, any way to draw analogy of it so as to lower the bar and associate it with mistakes. It’s a physics based reality that mistakes happen and … be able to hear that. So any thoughts on context in providing the realities associated with human error and other forces that cause mistakes and getting the facts out there almost lessening the demoninator.”

Translation: How can we lower the bar and make it okay that we blow people up sometimes?

UPDATE: From the comments:

Quake, fire, then Mexican pipeline blast kills 30: Sinkhole residents fear same

Homes in McAllen rocked from the blast that was about 10 miles away.

Authorities who are investigating the blast suspect illegal tapping of pipelines by criminal groups.

Illegal oil and gas tapping goes back a long way in the United States.

In 1977, Texaco was caught criminally siphoning huge amounts of natural gas that belonged to the people, for its own purposes. It illegally diverted the gas from federal offshore fields to its refinery in Texas.

I’ve heard of “hot-tapping” which is something they do here in the Barnett Shale, even in residential areas in Flower Mound. But this is the first I’ve heard of illegal tapping.

About Sharon Wilson

Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.

Comments

  1. GhostBlogger says

  2. kim Feil says

    I’d rather live in a cave than blow up. I’d rather walk to where I had to go than be fat and sickly or riddled up with cancer from a lifetime of BTEX environmental exposures from fossil fuels. I’d rather be cold and find warmth from the sun and harness that for the cold nights than see my husband or one of my sons blow up or get cancer.

  3. says

    Pipeline testing was conducted in Arlington, TX last week. Here is an e-mail that our City sent out:

    “As a continuance of a comprehensive pipeline safety audit by the Texas Railroad Commission, Summit Midstream Partners will be testing the over-pressure protection device on DFW (Summit) Midstream’s custody transfer facility @ Chesapeake’s Fulson well pad tomorrow morning (Tuesday 11th) @ approximately 10AM. The test is to verify for the State that the device functions @ the correct pressure & operates effectively. The test involves isolating the device from gas flow, introducing pressurized nitrogen into the pilot, & confirming the actuation @ the correct set pressure. No gas will be released to atmosphere during this test, but the pressurized nitrogen release will cause several very loud, but very brief “jetting” noises.”

    We had wondered if – during testing – an explosion could occur. That question could not be answered by officials. Apparently, it could.

  4. anonymous says

    PSYOPS says: It’s a physics based reality that mistakes happen and … be able to hear that. So any thoughts on context in providing the realities associated with human error and other forces that cause mistakes and getting the facts out there almost lessening the denominator.”

    Executives said a valve apparently failed as workers performed routine testing where pipelines from gas wells in the Burgos basin converge near the border with Texas. The plant distributes the gas into a processing plant next door that produces fuel for domestic use.

    my thoughts: in physics there is something called entropy – or the natural progression of something to deteriorate over time unless energy is put back into the system – or in this case “regular maintenance”. It seems the valve failed during a routine test….maybe the valve should have been examined earlier to see if corrosion or other factors could cause it to fail. But because businesses don’t like to spend money, maybe they didn’t do enough maintenance and physics bit them in the butt. Or in this case, tragically took the lives of so many people whose families and loved ones will never be the same after their horrific deaths.

    entropy – the word of the day for the energy industry.

    ps. to call a dangerous business “sport” is unconscionable.

    • GhostBlogger says

      In the US, the rules for gas transmission pipeline valve testing:

      http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=a273999c803826cc8e10b63ef5df12e2&rgn=div8&view=text&node=49:3.1.1.1.8.13.9.22&idno=49

      192.745 Valve maintenance: Transmission lines.

      (a) Each transmission line valve that might be required during any emergency must be inspected and partially operated at intervals not exceeding 15 months, but at least once each calendar year.

      (b) Each operator must take prompt remedial action to correct any valve found inoperable, unless the operator designates an alternative valve.

      Now, all those new gas gathering pipelines in the US are *not* enforced by PHMSA, but by the states. So, they may not be testing those at all. Not good when one of those 40 inch 1200 psi gathering lines is on fire in a residential area.

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