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2 Injured in Tank Cleaning Flash Fire

Thursday, June 30, 2011

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Authorities are investigating a flash fire that erupted this week as three subcontractors were cleaning out a production water tank at an Oxy USA drilling operation in Colorado.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is looking into how two employees were injured, one critically, in the blast at a well on property owned by Oxy (Occidental Petroleum Corp.), the nation’s fourth-largest oil and gas company. The third worker apparently escaped injury.

 Oxy USA

 Oxy USA

Oxy USA, a division of Occidental Petroleum Corp., has more than 7 million acres of oil and gas assets in the United States.

Initial reports indicated that one man was critically injured with severe head injuries and facial trauma. The other man was less severely injured. Both men reportedly suffered burns to their hands.

Condensate Tank Blast

The men work for Wolverine Enterprises Ltd., a Canadian company that provides a variety of services for oilfields, drilling rigs and construction sites.

The workers were cleaning out a production water tank about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday when the fire broke out, according to a statement from Oxy USA. The men were taken to St. Mary’s Hospital. Neither their names nor their conditions were released.

Wolverine has declined to comment in the case, but emergency scanner traffic indicated that the men were on a ladder when a condensate tank exploded at a natural gas injection well, the local Daily Sentinel reported. Early reports said chemicals may have ignited.

Area residents said they heard the explosion a mile away.

Oxy Responds

“Safety is Oxy’s primary concern,” company spokesman Eric Moses said in a statement. “We are committed to protecting the safety, security and health of our workers and neighboring communities and safeguarding the environment.

“We will conduct a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the incident and take appropriate measures to prevent similar incidents in the future. Oxy has notified the appropriate government authorities, and we will continue to cooperate fully with them.”


Tagged categories: Explosions; Fatalities; Health and safety; Maintenance coating work; OSHA; Water Tanks

Comment from Thomas Van Hooser, (7/1/2011, 6:33 AM)

It is very clear that precautions and risk assessments was not performed or that precautions were not enforced before the work commenced.

Comment from jesse chasteen, (7/1/2011, 10:10 AM)

With the information at hand few conclusions should be drawn at this time..there is however the absolute apparent presense of some type of flammable gas that was in some way ignited and that should have been detected before it reached it's flashpoint???

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (7/5/2011, 9:06 AM)

Standard 4-gas meters should be set to alarm when the concentration reaches 10% of the lower flammability limit.

Comment from M. Halliwelll, (7/5/2011, 11:21 AM)

A little early to jump to conclusions on cause. Hopefully the two workers make a full recovery. Caveat to 4 gas meters...they are accureate for the gas they are calibrated to, but can be far off depending on the actual gases involved. You'd expect a decent response with condensate, but sometimes site-specific conditions can throw a curve at you (from someone who's seen one instrument indicate no issue while a different one was alarming, even though both bump tested correctly).

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