According to MSNBC, a Texas petroleum plant explosion killed a contractor on Tuesday afternoon. Witnesses heard explosions around 12:15 PM at Enterprise Products on Sun Oil Road, about 35 miles east of Houston. Flames visible for 17 miles consumed a large part of the natural gas liquid plant, which also provides storage and makes octane-boosting gasoline additives.
Federal officials started investigating what may have been a ruptured pipeline that carried natural gas. According to reports, officials plan to investigate the cause of the fire and may consider pipeline failure in the area where liquid is fed into a storage dome. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened its investigation into the ruptured pipeline hours after the fiery explosion.
“Somebody made the decision not to upgrade or maintain this equipment, thus putting many lives at risk,” said Rick Dodd, Senior Partner of Cappolino, Dodd & Krebs, LLP. “The decision to put profit over people is not uncommon in big industry. Look back to the early 1990’s when decision makers knew that the use of asbestos caused lung cancers like mesothelioma. Big business needs to be held accountable.”
The company employs 600-700 workers on site, many of those workers reported various physical injuries. Investigators found the body of a contractor who died hours after the explosion, according to official. Official released Rick Shaw’s name but details of his death remain unavailable. A Baton Rouge-based plant contractor, Turner Industries, hired Shaw to work at the Houston-area plant.
One worker who witnessed the explosion in the area said that he saw Shaw in the middle of a gas cloud when it happened.
A witness reported hearing the liquid gas coming out of the ground and making a whoosh sound. The blaze affected nearby streets and a local school. Officials closed down nearby streets as flames reached about 500 feet into the sky. The school district ordered students to stay indoors as a precaution. The flames were not near homes. Fire officials reported the fire was so intense that nearby vehicles caught on fire and exploded.
The fire broke out at the plant’s west storage facility and workers noticed abnormal readings n the plant’s command center shortly before the tragic explosion.
The Enterprise Products plant separates natural gas liquids into different components before storage or injection into pipelines. The plant has a capacity of about 305,000 barrels of natural gas liquids per day. Its site has a capacity to store 100 million barrels of product, which is about a year’s worth of produced natural gas liquids.