Health, Safety, Security and Environment

A ‘Blow Torch’: Louisiana Pipeline Explosion Leaves Five Injured, One Missing

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As emergency response teams wait for a fire at a Phillips 66 pipeline in St. Charles Parish to burn out, a family waits to hear the fate of a loved one.

The call came in at 6:42 pm on Feb. 9 from an unnamed operator at the Phillips 66-operated Paradis Pipeline Station, located 30 minutes west of New Orleans in St. Charles Parish, La. The caller was reporting an electrical fire at the facility. Multiple calls to the parish’s emergency response office and 9-1-1 line followed within minutes, with the callers reporting loud noises and a possible explosion at the pipeline. Shortly thereafter, emergency response operators lost communication with the facility.

The explosion and fire at the Paradis Pipeline Station injured workers (one possibly fatally), caused the evacuation of 60 nearby homes and resulted in the temporary shut down of Highway 90. Highway 631 in both directions from Highway 635 to 306 Bayou Gauche Road remains closed.

“A Blow Torch”

Response to the emergency calls was swift, and included responders from the St. Charles Parish Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, the sheriff’s department and the fire department.

At a press conference, St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne called the 20-inch pipeline “a big blow torch,” adding, “They tell us the best thing that can happen right now is for the product to burn off.”

The pipeline, which runs from Venice to Paradis, La. and carries y-grade, or raw, natural gas liquids – has been shut off. But product already in the pipeline continues to burn off, a process that could take as long as several days. The product is burning at very high temperatures over a 40-foot area, according to Champagne.

Six workers were on site at the time of the explosion: three worked for Phillips 66 and three were contract employees.

According to St. Charles Parish EMS Chief Sergio Morales, three of the six workers on site were considered “walking wounded” and were evaluated and received first aid on scene without needing to be transported to the hospital. Two workers – both contract employees – were transported to a local hospital where one was treated and released and the other was transported to a burn unit in Baton Rouge, La. One Phillips 66 worker remains unaccounted for.

A statement released Feb. 9 by Phillips 66 noted that the company’s first priority “is ensuring the safety of our workers, responders and the community.” The company said that ongoing air monitoring of the area indicates “no health impacts to the surrounding community.”

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