Explosion At Natural Gas Plant Forces Evacuation Of Wyoming Town

CREDIT: Screenshot/Fox-13 News

An explosion and fire at a natural gas processing plant in southwestern Wyoming on Wednesday forced the evacuation of the small town of Opal about 100 miles northeast of Salt Lake City.

No one was injured in the incident at a facility run by Williams Partners LP, a gas pipeline operator. According to the Associated Press, the plant removes impurities including carbon dioxide from natural gas that is collected from fields in Wyoming and Utah. The plant can handle as much as 1.5 billion cubic feet of gas per day, sending it into pipelines for distribution from the West Coast to Ohio.

The explosion occurred around 2 p.m. Wednesday and the resulting fire was still burning into the night. Opal, which is home to approximately 95 residents, was evacuated as a precaution, said Lincoln County Sheriff Shane Johnson. “The fire was still very active, and because of the nature of the processing that goes on there, that was the call that was made for safety reasons.”

“It burned so hot you can’t fight this thing,” Lincoln County spokesman Stephen Malik said of the fire.

Brian Jeffries, executive director of the Wyoming Pipeline Authority, said the explosion would not have as big an impact on gas supplies and prices as it would have had it occurred at the height of the winter heating and summer cooling seasons.

“It really is that time of year when it’s sort of least likely to impact customers,” he said.

The Wyoming incident is the latest of several recent natural gas explosions. In January, a natural gas pipeline exploded and caught fire in Manitoba, Canada, cutting off service to 4,000 residents in sub-zero temperatures. About two weeks later in mid-January, a gas line explosion in Kentucky set several homes on fire, and injured one person. And in late March, a gas pipeline plant explosion and fire injured five people in Plymouth, Washington.