NiSource gas pipeline blast raises safety issues

 

On December 11, a natural gas transmission pipeline exploded in flames near Charleston, West Virginia, injuring several people, and setting nearby buildings on fire. The explosion, on NiSource‘s Columbia Gas Transmission pipeline, occurred at midday near Sissonville, about 10 miles north of Charleston. Several homes and buildings caught fire, and a number of people suffered from smoke inhalation.

While NiSource spokespeople have little to say at this point, as the company is still gathering facts, the blast brings to mind a more devastating and deadly natural gas pipeline blast that occurred in San Bruno, California, in 2010 on a PG&E natural gas transmission line.

The two explosions raise questions about the safety of the country’s aging natural gas pipeline infrastructure.

According to a report in 2009 by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the US would need to invest $2.2 trillion over five years to bring existing infrastructure up to a safe and functionally adequate level. The amount budgeted at the time of the San Bruno blast? $975 billion.

Perhaps the West Virginia blast, depending on its cause, will prompt the National Transportation Safety Board and the US Department of Transportation‘s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to pressure Congress to free up the funds to reduce the current risks in the nation’s pipeline infrastructure.

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Photo by KOMUnews used under a Creative Commons license.

 

Stuart Hampton

British editorial veteran Stuart Hampton has been covering oil and gas companies for Hoover's since the Neogene-Quaternary period. Well, actually, since the early 1990s. For the best overview of the oil industry and its history he recommends Daniel Yergin's "The Prize." You can also follow Stuart on Twitter.

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