VA Pipeline Explodes Along Interstate
On Tuesday (July 25) a gas pipeline along Interstate 81 in rural western Virginia exploded, leading to precautionary road closures as officials investigated the cause of the explosion.
According to Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Denise Vollmer, the explosion happened near Battlefield Road and Copp Road sometime around 8:41 a.m. Officials state that pipeline company TC Energy was notified Tuesday morning, after a pressure drop in its Columbia Gas Transmission Pipeline.
According to reports, witnesses stated to have seen the explosion in a field just off the interstate sometime after 8 a.m. and called authorities.
Jordan Morgan of Broadway in Rockingham County told AP News that he could see the flames as he got on the interstate on his way to work that morning. As Morgan traveled north, he saw a “towering blaze shooting up high above the trees,” along southbound lanes.
“I could feel the heat and pressure from it,” Morgan said. “I’ve never experienced anything like that.”
A massive fireball caught on video.https://t.co/hNyPN3cw23— KOMO News (@komonews) July 26, 2023
In an initial statement from TC Energy on the morning of the incident, the company stated that its emergency response procedures were activated upon notification and that no injuries had been reported. TC Energy also stated that it was assessing the impact of the explosion and that the pipeline section had been isolated as a precaution.
In another update on the same day, TC stated that after extinguishing the fire, it had established an approximately 1,650-foot response radius to ensure the safety of the local community. Additionally, the radius would reportedly support response efforts as TC asked the public to avoid the area until further notice.
In its most recent update from yesterday, the company reported that it aims to work with local responders to determine plans to repair the impacted pipeline and return the adjacent pipelines to service safely. The company stated that it did not have a timeline for those activities, though the impacted pipeline remains shut down as TC Energy continues to work with impacted customers.
The company stated that its primary focus is the safety of people and protecting the environment as it continues to gather information, assess the effects and provide updates as they become available.
“We have been in contact with landowners within the impacted radius and are committed to continuing to provide updates and are available to address their questions. The site has been secured to ensure the safety of the local community and to support our response efforts; we are asking that the public avoid the area until further notice,” TC Energy stated.
On August 15, 2021, just before 5:30 a.m., a 30-inch-diameter natural gas transmission pipeline ruptured in Coolidge, Arizona. According to the NTSB, the rupture resulted in the releasee of natural gas vapor that ignited and exploded, causing a blast wave and gas-fed fire.
The incident reportedly destroyed a farmhouse about 451 feet away, killing two occupants and seriously injuring a third. Additionally, about 33 acres of vegetation were damaged in some areas about 878 feet away from the rupture crater.
In May of this year, an investigation report from the National Transportation Safety Board stated that the pipeline explosion from 2021 resulted from tented tape wrap, leading to stress corrosion cracking.
The NTSB also found during its investigation that owner and operator Kinder Morgan, Inc., did not record the correct coating type used for the segment of the pipeline, which led to a risk assessment that did not identify the cracking or corrosion.
The NTSB reports that one pipeline data report, submitted in 2011 after a composite sleeve was installed on Line 2000 approximately 375 feet from the rupture location, noted that the coating type listed as fusion-bonded epoxy was incorrect at that location and that the actual coating type was spiral wrap tape. However, this was not recorded in the PODS.
The investigation found that cracks leading to the rupture formed and coalesced on the outside of the pipe near a seam weld. The board noted that spiral wrap tape is more vulnerable to the type of corrosion that damaged the pipe compared to fusion-bonded epoxy or a powder coating.