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Second fatal explosion in Colorado puts safety of area oil and gas operations in question

30 May 2017

Workers upgrading an Anadarko Petroleum Co. oil tank facility were caught in a fire that killed one and injured three in Mead, about 65 kilometres) north of Denver, Colorado, on May 25. The incident took place only a few kilometres away from the site of the Firestone home explosion which killed two and injured a third in April and was linked to a leaking Anadarko gas pipe.

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Anadarko, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the Mountain View Fire Protection District, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Transportation Safety Bureau (NTSB) will investigate the incident.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said there was no reason to believe that the circumstances behind the Mead oil tank facility explosion were similar to those that caused the Firestone incident.

In recent days, Anadarko has been distributing free gas detectors to home-owners near its oil and gas infrastructure in Firestone.

This follows a report from COGCC and Anadarko and delivered to Firestone residents on May 24 which showed that a new methane cloud had been discovered just west of the home explosion site during testing in early May, and that the methane levels were even higher than those at the site of the explosion.

Anadarko said it was permanently shutting in three wells in that neighbourhood, including the one that led to the explosion. The company said it believed the three wells were safe but was closing them down because of the "special circumstances and sensitivity surrounding this equipment."

This comes as a class-action lawsuit was filed against Anadarko by shareholders who claim the company failed to disclose its knowledge of risks involving its vertical wells in Colorado.

Also on May 25, an evacuation order was issued for all residents within a two mile radius of the East Cheyenne Gas Storage facility in Peetz, north-eastern  Colorado, after equipment failure led to a gas leak.

The town has opened a shelter for evacuees and the company said it would reimburse evacuated homeowners for their expenses. There was no explosion or fire associated with the leak, but the growing plume of natural gas forced the authorities to order the evacuation, which affected about 25 people.

The East Cheyenne Gas Storage facility is owned by Midstream Energy Holdings and is located near two major pipelines, offering gas storage to meet demand peaks.

Colorado Democrats and environmental organisations expressed concern at the recent string of incidents involving oil and gas operators. The Sierra Club said the oil and gas industry could not be trusted to ensure public safety and called for more federal oversight in oil and gas operations.

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