Tuesday, March 2, 2010

U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigators rip gas purge practices

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. - Just prior to a Feb. 7 explosion that killed six workers and injured 27 at a Kleen Energy power plant in Middletown, a huge amount of natural gas was vented into a congested outdoor area between buildings.
About 400,000 cubic feet of gas - enough to fill a pro-basketball arena floor to ceiling with an explosive mixture - was vented amid vigorous construction activity at the new power plant, federal investigators reported at a news conference on Feb. 25. Several “potential ignition sources,” including welding, were present in the surrounding area, they said.
On the morning of the fatal accident, multiple pipe-cleaning efforts called “gas blows” sent natural gas surging through piping at 650 pounds per square inch and then outside through open pipe ends less than 20 feet off the ground. The investigators said the congested area “likely slowed dispersion of the gas,” which collected and was ignited by an undetermined ignition source.
The key problem was not ignition sources, which are widespread at construction sites, but the common practice of venting large amounts of gas from pipe cleaning into buildings or even outside. Insufficient attention was paid to this activity, which the investigators called “inherently unsafe.”
The safety issues raised by this accident are not limited to Connecticut (or) any particular company, facility, or individual,” Don Holmstrom, lead investigator for the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) told reporters. Thousands of workers are involved in building natural gas power plants nationwide. There are 84 gas-fired turbines in 35 different plants that are either being tested or are still under construction, according to the Edison Electric Institute. A study by the Interstate Gas Association of America Foundation (INGAA) estimates that as many as 62,000 miles of new pipelines could be built in the next 20 years.

No comments:

Post a Comment