The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) today released a new study of explosions at oil and gas production sites across the U.S., identifying 26 incidents since 1983 that killed 44 members of the public and injured 25 others under the age of 25, and is calling for new public protection measures at the sites.
The report examined in detail three explosions that occurred at oil and gas production facilities in Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas, that killed and injured members of the public between October 2009 and April 2010.
Board investigators found:
… Children and young adults frequently socialize at oil sites in rural areas, unaware of the explosion hazards from storage tanks that contain flammable hydrocarbons like crude oil and natural gas condensate. The unintentional introduction of an ignition source (such as a match, lighter, cigarette, or static electricity) near tank hatches or vents can trigger an internal tank explosion, often launching the tank into the air and killing or injuring people nearby.
For local readers, none of the incidents the CSB documented occurred in West Virginia, but still:
The report identified regulatory gaps at the federal and state levels and called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state regulatory bodies to improve current safety and security measures at exploration and production sites such as warning signs, full fencing, locked gates, locks on tank hatches, and other physical barriers.
Board chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said:
After reviewing the work of our investigators I believe that these incidents were entirely preventable. Basic security measures and warning signs – as well as more safely designed storage tanks – will essentially prevent kids from being killed in tank explosions at these sites.
And here’s the board’s safety video on this issue: