A series of natural gas pipeline explosions in Midland County, Texas on Wednesday hospitalized seven people with injuries and highlighted the risks of transporting fossil fuels.
Dr. Sandra Steingraber, a New York-based scientist who advocates against hydraulic fracturing—a fossil fuel extraction method also called fracking—tweeted that her experience seeking an update on the explosions reminded her how often pipelines carrying natural gas blow up:
Looking for an injury update from pipeline explosion in TX oilfield, I became confused by varying casualty numbers. Then I saw they all occurred on different dates this summer. That’s how often the #fracking pipelines blow up. Here’s the latest disaster: https://t.co/BaaJKEohlK
— Dr. Sandra Steingraber (@ssteingraber1) August 2, 2018
Over the past two months, four Oklahoma Natural Gas workers and a firefighter were injured by an explosion in Tulsa; a pipeline that exploded outside of Hesston, Kansas caused a fire 100 feet high; and, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "an explosion in a newly installed natural gas line near Moundsville, West Virginia shot flames into the sky that could be seen for miles."
In Texas on Wednesday, "there were three total explosions, the first at 11:30am," according to KFVS 12. "After suppressing the initial fire, a second and third small explosion followed at 12:30pm."
Video footage shows the pipeline explosion that injured seven people, including five that were sent to Lubbock to be treated for burns. Among the injured were two members of the Midland and Greenwood Fire Departments. https://t.co/oO4IR9r2kV pic.twitter.com/MnlHMQBgM5
— Midland Reporter-Telegram (@mwtnews) August 2, 2018
Multiple people were airlifted to University Medical Center in Lubbock, and at least two of those injured were firefighters. The Houston Chronicle reported that as of Thursday, at least one worker remained in critical condition.
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Sara Hughes, a spokesperson for Houston-based pipeline operator Kinder Morgan, told Reuters that at least one of the company's employees was injured, and that the company had isolated a portion of its El Paso Natural Gas Pipeline (EPNG) after being informed of a fire near the line.
"There was a third-party pipeline involved that also experienced a failure, and preliminary indications are that the third-party line failure occurred before the EPNG line failure," Hughes wrote in an email.
"The region is the home to the Permian Basin, the largest U.S. oilfield," Reuters noted, "and is crisscrossed by oil and gas pipelines."
And as EcoWatch explained, "Production in the Permian shale field in western Texas has been booming." Outlining the recent extraction activity and pipeline development the area, EcoWatch reported:
According [to] IEA's Oil 2018 forecast, global oil production capacity is expected to grow by 6.4 million barrels a day (mb/d) to reach 107 mb/d by 2023. Much of that growth is led by the U.S. due to oil produced from fracking the Permian, where output is expected to double by 2023.
However, there is currently not enough pipeline capacity to retrieve Permian fuels, and that bottleneck has opened up opportunities for more pipeline development in the region. In June, Kinder Morgan's Texas subsidiary announced a $2 billion Permian pipeline to transport natural gas. Earlier that month, ExxonMobil and Plains All American Pipeline announced a joint pursuit to construct a multi-billion dollar pipeline that will transport more than 1 million barrels of crude oil and condensate per day from the basin to the Texas Gulf Coast.