About 700 residents of a small town in Texas were forced to evacuate on Thursday after a Chevron (NYSE:CVX) drilling crew punctured a gas pipeline and triggered an explosion. There were no injuries reported, but reports do indicate that several vehicles were caught in the fire. Residents are expected to be able to return on Friday.
“At approximately 9.30 a.m. (CST) today there was an incident at the Chevron-operated West Texas LPG system near Milford, Texas,” states a company press release from Thursday morning. “The flow of product in the pipeline has been shut-off and residual burn continues. There is an adjacent Chevron owned 14” LPG pipeline that the company is currently monitoring.”
Tom Hemrick, director of Hill County Emergency Management, told KTVT-TV in Dallas that the gas flow would not be halted, because stopping it would only increase the risk of a second explosion. “It is still flowing because the flow cools the line,” he said. “The smoke is going to be the issue — people breathing it in. If the wind shifted, people with breathing problems, it’s just not good to breathe that stuff in.” Hemrick said he was unaware exactly how many people had been evacuated.
The bad news was followed by tragedy on Friday afternoon. There was an explosion at a Chevron refining facility in Mississippi that killed one worker and injured another. The incident occurred at the Pascagoula facility in Jackson County; the location is the largest refinery that Chevron fully owns. The facility processes about 330,000 barrels of crude oil per day and employs about 1,610 people. A fire broke out at one of the facility’s cracking units.
The explosion comes less than a year after a massive blast at a fertilizer plant, which occurred in Texas in April. Fifteen people were killed in the disaster, including a dozen volunteer fireman, and 160 more were injured.
The only good news out of this seems to be that the fertilizer plant explosion helped prepare emergency response crews for the most recent incident.
“Most of the people here on this scene were at West. It’s amazing how smooth the response has been,” Joe Hubbard, a spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office in Dallas, told The New York Times. “We learned a lot from West. It went by the book, everybody was accountable and we knew who was here. Right now it’s really just a waiting game.”