A kerosene space heater near a cloud of polymer dust is believed to be the cause of an explosion that injured four employees at an Oklahoma pipe coating plant, officials say.
Photos: NOV Tuboscope
|NOV Tuboscope provides a variety of pipe coatings for the oil and gas industry.|
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the cause of the explosion and flash fire, which occurred just before 9 a.m. Thursday (Jan. 12) at NOV Tuboscope in Edmond, OK.
State Department of Environmental Quality officials also responded to the scene, but no chemicals were released.
|NOV Tuboscope is a division of National Oilwell Varco of Houston, TX.|
Tuboscope, a division of Houston-based National Oilwell Varco, provides pipe coating, inspection, corrosion control and other services for oilfields.
“Something exploded in the plant,” an unidentified employee said in a tape of the 911 call reporting the accident.
The employee said a “coating tower” inside the plant had exploded.
The accident occurred as three employees were working on a polymer machine that is used to treat oilfield pipe, said Edmond Fire Department Maj. Kelly Lewis. The polymer, in powder form, is sucked through a heated pipe to form an anticorrosion pipe coating, he said.
“The vacuum became plugged up,” Lewis said. As the men worked to clear the obstruction, a hose became disconnected, dumping polymer powder that clouded the area.
The explosion occurred when the dust cloud reached a kerosene space heater with an open flame, Lewis said.
“The men suffered thermal burns,” he told NewsOK.com. “Basically, there was a fire ball. It all happened very quickly, and the fire was out.”
Lewis also told KOCO.com: "The space heater operating in the immediate area did create the hazard."
The victims—the three working on the machine and a fourth working nearby—were taken to Integris Baptist Medical Center, where two were treated and released.
A third man suffered second-degree burns on 8 percent of his body and broke his heel in jumping from an eight-foot-high work platform when the explosion occurred, Kelly said. A fourth with burns—including third-degree burns—on 18 percent of his body.
There was no damage to the building and little damage to the equipment, authorities said.
The facility, which has 23 employees, has been shut down pending the outcome of the company’s own investigation.
Company officials issued no comment on the incident.
Said Kelly, "We're fortunate that it wasn't larger than it was."