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Hole in Pipe, Coating Eyed in Fatal TX Blast

Friday, September 14, 2018

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The natural gas pipeline that caused a fatal explosion near Midland, Texas, in August, had damage to its coal tar coating and steel wall, a newly released report indicates, causing a leak prior to the blast.

The pipeline blast, Aug. 9, sent four members of a family living in a mobile home on the site to the hospital; days later, 3-year-old Delaney Tercero died from her injuries.

The gathering pipeline—a line that transports gas from its source to a refinery or transmission line—is operated by Targa Pipeline Mid-Continent WestTex. The location of the blast, south of Stanton and east of Midland, is a rural area in the heart of the Permian Basin.

RRC Report

The Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees drilling and other oil and gas operations, issued a report Sept. 5 detailing the immediate response to the explosion. While investigators initially looked into whether a propane tank at the mobile home contributed to the blast, they later found that the gathering pipeline nearby was damaged and had caused the incident.

According to the report, two days after the explosion, a contractor removed a 19-foot length of the pipe and found a hole about the size of a dime, through the wall of the pipeline and the coal-tar coating around it. The hole, 3/8 inch by 5/8 inch, was the only indication of a leak, and the report says it was leaking “for an undetermined length of time.”

The report does not indicate whether corrosion was present at the site of the hole; it notes that the stretch of pipe has been placed in a locked facility at a Targa facility where the company's legal counsel can access it, and will be sent to a lab for analysis.

As the gas in the gathering line was moving from its source downstream to a refinery point, it was not yet odorized, so a leak could have been ongoing for a period of time without the family living nearby noticing.

Targa Pipeline Mid-Continent WestTex is part of Targa Resources Corp., a major independent midstream oil and gas company. According to company materials, the firm has the largest gathering and processing position in the Permian Basin; Targa was worth $14.4 billion in 2017 and reported revenues of $8.8 billion on the year.


Tagged categories: Coal tar epoxy; Explosions; Pipelines

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (9/14/2018, 8:32 AM)

If someone died, shouldn't there be an independent investigation by officials instead of just letting the company do their own secret analysis?

Comment from Anna Jolly, (9/14/2018, 10:09 AM)

Pipeline Companies always say they will do everything they need to make sure employees and the community are safe, but time and again they fail at these efforts. No wonder communities fight pipelines.

Comment from David Zuskin, (9/14/2018, 10:17 AM)

I wonder if the injured/dead were living there legally or just squatting? I wonder if the hole was an attempt by someone to "tap" the line.

Comment from David Zuskin, (9/14/2018, 10:24 AM)

There are additional stories at the local newspaper "Painter said the cause of the explosion appears to be that a gas line that runs under a mobile home was leaking. The mobile home was totally destroyed, and the debris spread over a large area, he said." Since when are homes located atop large diameter gas pipelines?

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (9/14/2018, 11:35 AM)

Good point, David. I wonder if the placement was approved by the local municipality and if the pipeline company was aware of it. Tom, I agree...especially where a fatality was'd think they would want an independent and impartial 3rd party to do the review to prevent any appearance of a conflict of interest.

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