Pipeline Rupture at Oak Grove Site Leads to Fire

BELMONT – A natural gas industry worker died Saturday after a piece of equipment crushed him at the Rice Energy drilling site in Belmont County, Sheriff David Lucas said.

In an unrelated incident, a 12-inch natural gas pipeline in Marshall County ruptured and caught fire about 8 a.m. Saturday. No one was injured.

Lucas said the 43-year-old man from Victoria, Texas, died at the scene. He said he would not release the worker’s name until the family was notified of the man’s death. The accident occurred on the company’s Big Foot Pad, located off Ohio 149.

“He was struck by heavy piece of equipment, part of an operation of the oil and gas industry. … It was a bad day. This is the first one in the county,” Lucas said, referring to a death connected to the industry in Belmont County.

Lucas said he did not know if the man was a Rice Energy employee or a subcontractor.

Rice Energy officials could not be reached for comment late Saturday.

Meanwhile, the line that ruptured in Marshall County was transporting natural gas drawn from Marcellus Shale well sites to the Williams Energy Oak Grove processing plant near Cameron. The blaze burned for nearly two hours. Residents within a half mile of the fire were told to evacuate.

“Our 911 center got 27 calls on this,” Marshall County Emergency Management Agency Director Tom Hart said. “The initial reports were that the fire was at the Oak Grove plant. But further investigation found that it was at a pipeline between Waymans Ridge and Middle Grave Creek Road, rather than at the plant itself.”

Hart and Williams spokesman Scott Carney said no one was injured and no adjacent property was damaged. However, Hart said officials advised residents near the site of the rupture to evacuate, noting he was not sure Saturday when those who fled would be able to return home.

Firefighters from departments in Moundsville, Cameron, Limestone and the Marshall County Tanker Task Force responded to the scene, along with Williams officials. Middle Grave Creek Road between Moundsville and the site of the fire remained closed throughout the day.

Hart said officials with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection came to the scene to evaluate the fire’s potential impacts.

Carney and Hart said the cause of the rupture remains under investigation, though Hart said he believes some form of a “landslide” was likely a factor. Carney said the company shut off a nearby 4-inch line that carries natural gas liquids – such as ethane, propane, butane and pentane – as a precautionary measure while officials assess the situation.

“Williams appreciates local first responders for their rapid response and teamwork,” Carney said.

Tulsa, Okla.-based Williams processes gas for several producers, including Chesapeake Energy, Chevron, Gastar Exploration, Stone Energy, Noble Energy and Trans Energy. Along with MarkWest Energy and Blue Racer Midstream, Williams is spending billions to move natural gas through Marshall County.

The Oak Grove site is one of three Williams points of operation in Marshall County, along with the Fort Beeler site along U.S. 250 and the fractionation site along W.Va. 2. Recently, Williams moved two “super load” de-ethanizer machines from the CSX rail yard in Benwood to the Oak Grove site.

This is not the first problem the county has experienced because of natural gas processing infrastructure. About a year ago, a 24-inch pipeline leading to the Fort Beeler plant ruptured about 4 miles south of Cameron along Reid Ridge Road. Though no injuries resulted from this, residents reported hearing a loud “boom” and seeing a cloud of dust.

Also, a Sept. 21 blast at the Blue Racer plant occurred when vapors formed a cloud that was “ignited by an unknown source,” said company spokeswoman Casey Nikoloric. The plant was closed for about four months while officials replaced the plant’s burned portion and adopted new safety measures.