Blasts, Fire Shutter MS Gas Plant

FRIDAY, JULY 1, 2016

Federal officials are investigating what led to two late-night explosions and the resulting fire at a natural gas processing facility in Pascagoula, MS.

Operation of the site, a former BP natural gas plant, had just been taken over by new ownership, Enterprise Product Partners LP of Houston, three weeks ago, reported Tuesday (June 28).

No one was injured in the blasts Monday night (June 27), and there was no impact on the surrounding community, Enterprise said in its statement on the incident. The fire was contained within the facility, it added.

Two employees who were on site at the time remained safe in an explosion-proof control room, reports said.

Late-Night Explosions

According to Jackson County Emergency Management Director Early Etheridge, the first explosion in the plant occurred at 11:30 p.m., and a second larger explosion erupted just minutes later, causing heavy damage to the processing area.

Tremors from the blasts reportedly could be felt up to 10 miles away.

The resulting fire burned through the night, and firefighters were still dousing flames Tuesday morning, Etheridge added.

"What's burning now is residue in the lines," he said. "We aren't sure how long it will continue to burn."

Enterprise Vice-President of Public Relations Rick Rainey explained to WLOX, "What happened is we had a release of hydro carbons ignite at our plant overnight.

"The resulting fire has diminished quite substantially,” he added. “The only flame left is residual vapors that are burning off."

Forts Lake Franklin Creek Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Brandon Saksa told WKRG Tuesday that the fire was “as controlled as it can be in this situation, obviously we’re not going to rest easy until all the gas is out of the facility and there is no flame.”

The plant remains closed until further notice.

Investigations Underway

Rainey noted that Enterprise planned to begin its investigation into the cause of the explosion once the flames were fully extinguished.

"Our people, first responders and law enforcement agencies are there now," he said. "We've also notified the appropriate regulatory authorities."

Meanwhile, investigators from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB), an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents, were deployed to the site and expected to arrive Wednesday (June 29).

“The CSB’s investigations examine a wide range of safety issues such as effective process safety management and equipment failures,” said CSB Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland. “Our investigations aim to improve the safety of workers and the public.”

CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards and safety management systems.

The Pascagoula Site and Its Reach

Enterprise had just acquired 100 percent ownership of the plant when it bought out majority owner BP’s interest in the first quarter of 2016. According to Rainey, Enterprise had owned 40 percent and BP 60 percent of the operation.

The Pascagoula plant receives natural gas from third-party offshore pipelines, processes it and transports it to other plants along the East Coast.

The plant has a capacity of about 1.5 billion cubic feet per day but was nowhere near that, according to Rainey. The facility was averaging approximately 400 million cubic feet per day of inlet volumes.

Enterprise is working with its customers and third-party facility operators to keep them apprised of the situation and help determine other available options while the Pascagoula plant is out of service, the company said.

After the fire, officials operating the 225-mile Destin gas pipeline system declared force majeure, a legal clause that allows it to abandon commitments, Reuters reported.

The Destin gas pipeline system, of which BP owns a majority share minority partner Enbridge Inc., can transport 1.2 billion cubic feet per day from offshore fields to Pascagoula. That pipeline connects to more than 10 oil and gas platforms with capacity to produce hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil and millions of cubic feet of gas a day, the news agency wrote.

Without a time frame for restarting, operators there were considering alternate offshore transportation options.

Two offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico also stopped operations after the blasts and fire shut down a pipeline.

Murphy Oil Corp. shut down its Thunder Hawk platform, which has a capacity of 60,000 barrels of oil per day and 70 million cubic feet of natural gas per day. Officials indicated they expected minimal disruptions, as they can divert flow to another processing facility.

The Delta House floating production system of offshore company LLOG also closed down. It has a capacity of 100,000 barrels per day for oil and 240 million cubic feet per day for gas.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Asia Pacific; BP; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Explosions; Fire; Latin America; North America; Offshore; Oil and Gas; Pipelines; Program/Project Management; Safety

Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.