After a gas explosion last month flattened a house and killed two people, the governor of Colorado is ordering oil companies in the state to test all oil and gas flowlines within 1,000 feet of an occupied building, Engineering News Record reported. Legislators also introduced a bill that would require companies to disclose pipeline locations to be mapped and logged by the state.
The accident was caused by an open, severed flowline near the home’s foundation, which leaked into the basement and created a buildup of methane and propane. The line was likely abandoned, but was connected to a working gas well and never capped. Investigators say a pressure test would have revealed that the pipe was cut but uncapped.
While the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has some rules on notifications and sealing of abandoned lines, it doesn’t know the location of all lines. Rapid growth in the state is compounding the problem, with new housing communities going up in areas with high concentrations of wells.
Local environmental and safety groups have long had concerns about the proximity of rapidly growing housing development on Colorado’s Front Range to oil and gas drilling, which also is happening at an active pace, according to The Denver Post. There have been no restrictions to the proximity of new homes to existing oil and gas lines and wells.
Colorado does have more stringent rules regarding flowlines than other states, Environment & Energy News reported, but the accident demonstrated a lack of information on line locations. Few states have stringent requirements for checking lines, and the rules governing active and inactive wells and flowlines vary greatly from state to state.
The National Transportation Safety Board has gotten involved in the investigation of the Colorado explosion, due to its potential national implications. Pipelines are considered a mode of transportation for materials like oil and gas.
The NTSB was also involved in an investigation into a September 2010 explosion in a residential neighborhood in San Bruno, CA, that killed eight people. Pacific Gas and Electric recently reached a $90 million settlement with shareholders over lawsuits related to the incident. The settlement, which is in addition to a $1.6 billion decision against the company by California’s Public Utilities Commission, also seeks to drive change by requiring PG&E to incorporate new safety and oversight measures.
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