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Natural gas explosion rattles neighborhood

Posted on by SST

An explosion at a natural gas processing plant in West Virginia near the border of Ohio lit up the night sky and rattled homes miles away on Sept. 21, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

"It woke us up. It shook the house," said Jim Hunt, fire chief of the Clarington, Ohio, Volunteer Fire Department, across the Ohio River. "I thought maybe the house next to us or two doors (blew) up. And then I see an orange flame. … We had people call us three or four miles away because they felt it. They thought downtown (Clarington) had blown up."

According to Dan Donovan, spokesperson for the Natrium Processing and Fractionation Facility, located in Marshall County, W.Va., where the explosion and fire occurred, the Hunt and Clarington Volunteer Fire Departments did not respond. However, volunteer firefighters from New Martinsville and Moundsville were alerted of the fire at about 1:30 a.m.

While a portion of nearby Route 2 was shutdown for several hours, the fire was confined to a small area of the Natrium plant and was allowed to burn itself out. By 8:30 a.m., the fire was completely extinguished. No injuries were reported, all personnel were accounted for and the public was never threatened by the event, Donovan added.

Energy security
The plant is part of a joint venture, The Associated Press reported, between Caiman Energy II and Dominion. According to Dominion's website, the Natrium facility fractionates 36,000 barrels of natural gas liquids per day, and processes 200 million cubic feet of natural per day.

Kathy Cosco, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson, said the agency has requested that Dominion provide samples of the water that firefighters used to help contain the fire over concerns that the water was contaminated with hazardous substances.

Those samples will be tested. It is unclear how contaminated water would impact fire suppression efforts and air quality thereafter. However, depending on the contaminants, an unpredictable, adverse reaction could occur between chemicals involved in the fire and those contained in the water. Until the water test results are in, the extent of the contamination is speculative.

Jim Norvelle, spokesperson for Dominion Resources, told the Wheeling News Register and The Intelligencer that company and plant officials began an investigation of the explosion and fire on Sept. 23. The cause of the explosion and fire has not yet been determined.

Industrial Safety News brought to you by Safety Systems Technology, Inc., leaders in fire and gas detection.

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