Processing Magazine

Gas Explosion in Power Plant Kills Five Workers

February 9, 2010
Five workers were killed and 12 were injured from an explosion at a power plant in Connecticut. Investigators are looking at a range of possibilities, including a procedure that uses natural gas to purge pipes, as the cause of the deadly explosion reports The Wall Street Journal. The mayor said terrorism or intentional crime had been ruled out as causes of the explosion at the Kleen Energy Systems LLC plant. However, police haven''t ruled out criminal negligence as a potential cause. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D., Conn.) said the incident had "similarities" to an explosion in June at a ConAgra Slim Jim plant in Garner, N.C., that left four dead. The natural-gas purging procedure was being carried out there. A spokesman for the U.S. Chemical Safety Board said local police blocked the federal agency''s investigators from entering the explosion site because the site is still under investigation by state and federal law enforcement officers. Middletown officials said gas purging was taking place at the plant. Gas purging typically involves clearing gas lines or pipes of air, rust or debris before the lines become operational to create a pure stream of gas. The Chemical Safety Board issued a safety bulletin on gas purging in October, with four key recommendations for completing the procedure safely. The recommendations included venting gases outdoors, where they will dissipate, controlling ignition sources, using gas detectors and evacuating nonessential personnel. Recently, the board issued an urgent safety recommendation related to gas purging, as a result of the findings of an investigation into the explosion at a ConAgra Foods Inc. Slim Jim factory last June. In that case, natural gas was vented into the building for two and a half hours during the installation of an industrial water heater, until gas levels reached explosive limits.