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Copper Tip Energy Services
Vista Projects

Freeport LNG Blast Created 450-Feet-High Fireball, Report Shows

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The explosion that shut the Freeport LNG natural gas export facility in Texas last month created a 450-feet-high fireball and happened on a section that had been inspected several weeks earlier, according to a report.

A filing that was briefly posted Tuesday on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s website offered several new details about the accident and the investigation being conducted by regulators. IFO Group LLC, a Texas-based consultancy, is preparing a draft report, which will be released to the  plant and federal regulators later this month.

Freeport LNG still plans a partial restart of the plant in October, it said in an emailed statement. The accident slashed the volume of liquefied natural gas exported from the US at a critical time for consumers in Europe, who face a historic squeeze as Russia reduces supplies. The shutdown of the plant has also pushed domestic natural gas prices lower in recent weeks.

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Contractors performing maintenance work on a storage tank reported hearing unusual sounds the morning of the blast, according to the filing. Plant officials responded by conducting an inspection, but didn’t observe any anomalies. The sounds were reported two days after an investigation into a nearby “pipe movement.”

The explosion happened along a 700-foot section of pipe where LNG had become trapped, causing pressure to build. The ensuing rupture released a cloud of gas that ignited. The fireball lasted for 5 to 7 seconds, while the fire burned for 30 minutes. Contractors with the firm Puffer-Sweiven performed routine tests in April on a pressure safety valve that’s part of the same system of pipes that subsequently failed. The equipment passed inspection, but Freeport LNG is investigating if a related valve was left closed after the tests.

No injuries were reported from the explosion. The company estimates 1.6 million cubic feet of natural gas was burned during the fire.

Freeport LNG has shared related video, photographs, equipment logs and drawings with regulators investigating the fire.

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