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Gasoline Line Fire Leaves 1 Dead

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

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A gasoline pipeline in Alabama that ruptured just weeks ago, causing a massive spill, was the site of an explosion Monday (Oct. 31) that killed one worker and injured at least five others.

Crews were reportedly working on the Colonial Pipeline in Helena, AL, when the pipe ruptured around 3:00 p.m. on Monday, leading to a massive explosion. Colonial Pipeline Co. told local media that the workers were operating a trackhoe—a tracked excavator—when the implement hit the pipeline, causing the damage.

The names of the worker killed and those injured have not been released as of Tuesday (Nov. 1).

Reuters reports that a representative of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration indicated the workers may have been performing repair work related to the Sept. 9 spill when the latest incident occurred, though that has not been confirmed. The second incident was several miles from the September leak, according to Reuters.

September Breach

The first Colonial leak sent hundreds of thousands of gallons of gasoline into the surrounding environment in Shelby County; in a recent summary, the company characterized the total release as 7,370 barrels, which would equal about 309,000 gallons.

That breach is under investigation by the PHMSA, and Colonial sent a segment of the damaged pipeline to the federal agency for testing and failure analysis. No indication has been given yet as to what may have caused the leak.

Pipeline Importance

Both the September leak and this week’s rupture and explosion occurred on Line 1, the pipeline system’s main pipeline. According to reports, the line conveys about 1.3 million barrels of gasoline daily. The pipeline stretches from Houston, TX, to Linden, NJ. Other lines on the system convey diesel fuel and jet fuel.

Colonial pipeline map
Colonial Pipeline Co.

The pipeline stretches from Houston, TX, to Linden, NJ, and is said to convey about 1.3 million barrels of gasoline daily.

The first breach and shutdown caused gasoline shortages in some inland parts of the eastern U.S., including Tennessee and parts of Alabama. The pipeline got PHMSA approval to restart on Sept. 21, 12 days after the incident. Colonial reportedly expects the line could be up and running again as soon as Saturday (Nov. 5) after this latest incident.

Reports Tuesday indicated that gasoline and diesel prices were already on the rise in light of the news of the pipeline shutdown.

Wildfire Concerns

The fire from the explosion burned late into the night Monday, and crews reportedly built a dam to contain the spilled gasoline, which would be allowed to burn out in a controlled manner. According to, Alabama has been experiencing drought conditions recently, leading to wildfire concerns.

The site of the blast is reportedly rural and sparsely populated; two homes within about half a mile of the site were evacuated, but were not damaged, and no injuries were reported beyond the crew that was working at the pipeline.

The explosion comes on the heels of two high-profile pipeline breaches just over a week ago. On Oct. 21, a gasoline pipeline in Pennsylvania ruptured when a bridge washed out and impacted it; on Oct. 23, a crude oil pipeline in Oklahoma ruptured, leading to a release of an unknown volume of oil.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Asia Pacific; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Health & Safety; Latin America; North America; Oil and Gas; Pipeline; Safety

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