A newly-installed TransCanada Corporation gas pipeline on remote Nixon Ridge near Moundsville, West Virginia exploded at about 4:20 AM last Thursday, less than half a year after the company’s CEO declared the pipe a best-in-class installation.
“Thank god nobody is hurt. Everything else can be taken care of,” said Marshall County 911 Director Larry Newell. “Within a matter of three minutes, we received 37 911 calls.”
“This is truly a best-in-class pipeline and we look forward to many years of safe, reliable, and efficient operation on behalf of our customers,” TransCanada President and CEO Russ Girling said just five months ago, when the pipeline opened in January.
It was a different story last week, with TransCanada announcing it had “an issue” with a pipeline on its Columbia Gas Transmission system in Marshall County. “Our first priority is to protect the public and the environment,” the company said Thursday morning. “Emergency response procedures have been activated and the impacted area of pipeline has been isolated at this time.”
While no injuries were reported, the fire was visible 20 miles away, according to local media reports. “Area police told CBS News the fire was ‘very large—if you can see it from your house, evacuate,’” EcoWatch reports.
But by now, after so many years of ostensibly “safe” pipeline operations, local residents appear to have heard that as crying wolf.
“It’s happened around here before,” local resident Shark Martin told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “They [also] had a well out there catch fire and it lit up the sky. It’s getting to where you look around and it’s like, there goes another one.”
So after hearing a boom, then a roar “like a big wind” that lasted about an hour, and seeing a colour-filled sky “almost like a rainbow”, Martin “knew two things for sure: A natural gas pipeline had blown up and he was in no danger,” the Post-Gazette reports. “So he went back to bed.”
Marshall County Emergency Management Director Tom Hart said the remaining gas in the pipeline finished burning by about 6:20 AM. “The fire department did not attempt to put the fire out,” he said. “They basically just secured the perimeter.”
Citing TransCanada, Reuters said the explosion could have an impact on about 1.3 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) of gas service, enough to supply more than six million U.S. homes. The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) was investigating the explosion, and there was no word Thursday on when the pipeline would reopen.