CSB: Oklahoma oil field blast site had no fence, warnings

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Apr. 29 -- A rural Oklahoma oil and gas production site where an explosion and fire killed one intruder and injured another was not fenced and apparently did not have warnings posted, US Chemical Safety Board investigators said in their initial report. None of the site’s six tanks, including the one that exploded, had hatches to secure the lids, they added.

“Following this accident, our investigative team was able to observe a number of other oil and gas production sites in the area. The vast majority were unsecured and had no warning signs,” said CSB Investigations Supervisor Don Holmstrom, who leads the federal agency’s regional office in Denver. “Oil and gas sites that lack security measures and warning signs are an accident waiting to happen.”

CSB said the Apr. 14 accident occurred at about 9 p.m. CDT near Waleetka, Okla., while 6 individuals aged 18 to 32 were socializing at the rural site, which was normally unmanned. The site, which had 4 petroleum storage tanks and 2 brine storage tanks, was on private land and operated by two producers, Three MG Family Inc. and Enterprise Energy, which leased the mineral rights. A third company, ScissorTail Energy LLC, operated a gas metering and collection system connected to the production equipment. Five wells were near the tank battery.

“The blast occurred about 10 min after the group arrived at the site. Witnesses said they were attracted as they drove by an open gate on an open highway,” CSB Investigator Vidisha Parasram said at a press conference in Oklahoma City. She said crude in one of the tanks ignited, apparently from a cigarette lighter, as 21-year-old Zach Tangle peered into it. He suffered third-degree burns over 85% of his body and died the next day in a Tulsa hospital. A second member of the group suffered second-degree burns.

‘Readily accessible’
Parasram said CSB investigators found the rural production site east of Oklahoma City and south of Tulsa was easily accessible. “It’s less than a quarter mile off a main road. Many people also cross it to go fishing in a nearby river,” she said. “The catwalk leading to the top of the tank was unsecured and readily accessible. The tank hatches had no mechanism which would permit them to be secured or locked. No fire or explosion warning signs or other warning signage was visible anywhere on the site following the accident.”

CSB Board Member William Wark said, “We’re concerned about these ongoing accidents across the country [that] are needlessly taking the lives of young people. To me, it is self-evident that hazardous oil and gas sites should be secured against unauthorized entry and posted with extensive and specific warning signs. And we need to educate teenagers and young adults to stay away from these sites—they are dangerous.”

In an earlier preliminary analysis, CSB said it found 24 similar explosions and fires occurred at US oil and gas production sites between 1983 and 2009, resulting in 42 fatalities and a number of injuries, all occurring among teenagers and young adults under the age of 25.

CSB said it also found no specific federal standards or industry guidance for security or public protection measures at oil and gas production sites. It said that certain states, including Ohio and Colorado, require fencing and other public safety measures at sites in urban areas, and that Ohio requires tank hatches to be sealed and locked at unattended oil sites.

Holmstrom said state officials told CSB that Oklahoma has approximately 257,000 active and unplugged oil and gas production sites. “Oklahoma requires fencing and warning signs only at sites that have toxic hydrogen sulfide gas hazards, according to state officials,” he added.

Seeks broad effort
Wark said that one possible approach might be the one electric utilities use at substations, which apparently is an industry standard. “But more needs to be done. What we have found throughout the country was a systematic lack of any of this kind of regulation for these sites. We are calling on the oil and gas industry, state legislatures, and local governments to get them secured with prominently posted warning signs,” he said.

CSB already has discussed the problem with the American Petroleum Institute, Independent Petroleum Association of America, and Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, he said, adding that all say they want to help.

“We realize it’s a problem,” Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association Pres. Mike Terry said in a telephone interview. “Oklahoma has been the most proactive state in trying to educate not only the oil and gas industry, but also the public that these are not safe places to be and that they are places where you can be harmed. The incidents are not as frequent now, and that’s great news. But they still happen.” Operators’ employees and property owners also need access, he added.

A spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission confirmed that the industry has spent millions of dollars on programs warning the public of dangers at production sites, but added that county and local governments would need to address fencing and other security matters. “We’re happy to work with the industry, the legislature and local authorities in any way that is deemed necessary,” he told OGJ.

Lee O. Fuller, IPAA’s vice-president of government relations, said he met with CSB officials to discuss the problem a month ago. “We asked them to provide more access to their analysis so we can get it out to our membership, and to our cooperating associations which, in many cases, reach smaller producers,” he said, adding, “We want to make them aware of the problem and urge them to consider signing, fencing and other measures to keep people off the property. We will do what we can to make sure there’s a broad understanding among independent producers that these events are occurring and that their cooperation is needed.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX oil prices end with a gain despite oil supply build

09/03/2015 The price for light, sweet crude oil for October delivery fell for a while during Sept. 2 trading following a government report that showed a US oi...

Appeals court rules for environmental groups in Montana lawsuit

09/02/2015 A federal appeals court ruled that three environmental groups may have standing in a lawsuit to block oil and gas leasing on federal land in Montan...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX crude oil prices plummet by nearly $4/bbl

09/02/2015 The price for light, sweet crude oil for October delivery plummeted by $3.79/bbl on Sept. 1, abruptly ending a late-August rally that marked the la...

Armour buys Roma oil, gas assets from Origin Energy

09/02/2015 Armour Energy Ltd., Brisbane, has acquired oil, gas, and condensate assets on the Roma shelf region in southeast Queensland from Sydney company Ori...

CHS takes full ownership of Kansas refinery

09/02/2015 US farmer-owned cooperative CHS Inc., Inver Grove Heights, Minn., has completed its purchase of National Cooperative Refinery Association’s refiner...

EIA: Benefits of lifting US crude export ban most evident if output rises

09/02/2015 A study released Sept. 1 by the US Energy Information Administration was apparent cause for celebration for several oil and gas industry groups, wh...

PHMSA will award $54.1 million in pipeline safety grants to states

09/02/2015 The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration plans to award nearly $54.1 million in grants to support pipeline safety programs in ...

India to open 69 marginal fields for bidding

09/02/2015

To stimulate investment and increase production, India plans to open 69 oil fields for competitive bidding.

Husky starts steam at second Sunrise plant

09/02/2015

Husky Energy Inc. has started steam operations at the second of two processing plants at the Sunrise Energy project in northeastern Alberta.

White Papers

UAS Integration for Infrastructure: More than Just Flying

Oil and gas companies recognize the benefits that the use of drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) c...

Solutions to Financial Distress Resulting from a Weak Oil and Gas Price Environment

The oil and gas industry is in the midst of a prolonged worldwide downturn in commodity prices. While ...
Sponsored by

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts


The Resilient Oilfield in the Internet of Things World

When Tue, Sep 22, 2015

As we hear about the hype surrounding the Internet of Things, the oil and gas industry is questioning what is different than what is already being done. What is new?  Using sensors and connecting devices is nothing new to our mode of business and in many ways the industry exemplifies many principles of an industrial internet of things. How does the Internet of Things impact the oil and gas industry?

Prolific instrumentation and automation digitized the industry and has changed the approach to business models calling for a systems led approach.  Resilient Systems have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining their central purpose.  A resilient system, such as Maximo, allows an asset intensive organization to leverage connected devices by merging real-time asset information with other critical asset information and using that information to create a more agile organization.  

Join this webcast, sponsored by IBM, to learn how about Internet of Things capabilities and resilient systems are impacting the landscape of the oil and gas industry.

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Taking the Headache out of Fuel License and Exemption Certificates: How to Ensure Compliance

Tue, Aug 25, 2015

This webinar, brought to you by Avalara, will detail the challenges of tax document management, as well as recommend solutions for fuel suppliers. You will learn:

-    Why it’s critical to track business partner licenses and exemption documents
-    The four key business challenges of ensuring tax compliance through document management
-    Best practice business processes to minimize exposure to tax errors

register:WEBCAST


Driving Growth and Efficiency with Deep Insights into Operational Data

Wed, Aug 19, 2015

Capitalizing on today’s momentum in Oil & Gas requires operational excellence based on a clear view of what your business data is telling you. Which is why nearly half* of oil and gas companies have deployed SAP HANA or have it on their roadmap.

Join SAP and Red Hat to learn more about using data to drive process improvements and identify new opportunities with the SAP HANA platform running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. This webinar will also show how your choice of infrastructure impacts the performance of core business applications and your ability to achieve data-driven insights quickly and reliably.

*48% use SAP, http://go.sap.com/solution/industry/oil-gas.html

register:WEBCAST


OGJ's Midyear Forecast 2015

Fri, Jul 10, 2015

This webcast is to be presented by OGJ Editor Bob Tippee and Senior Economic Editor Conglin Xu.  They will summarize the Midyear Forecast projections in key categories, note important changes from January’s forecasts, and examine reasons for the adjustments.

register:WEBCAST


Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected