What Caused Northwest OKC Natural Gas Explosion?

A recent NewsOK report questioned whether a plastic natural gas pipeline manufactured by Chevron Phillips Petroleum is to blame for a January explosion in northwest Oklahoma City that sent one person to the hospital and damaged dozens of homes.

Speculation Turns to Bad Pipe, Earthquakes

However, an Oklahoma Natural Gas spokesperson seemed to hint that earthquakes may be at fault. The explosion happened on Jan. 2 in the Walnut Creek housing addition near 122nd and Council. One home was destroyed, 50 more were damaged and one man was hospitalized with second-degree burns.

The NewsOK article revealed that ONG’s initial report on the explosion listed Driscopipe as manufacturer of the polyethylene gas line at the home. The report said Driscopipe natural gas pipelines have been connected to explosions in other states.

gas explosion OKC

Driscopipe is manufactured by Performance Pipe, a division of Chevron Phillips Petroleum. Performance Pipe was formed in 2000, when Phillips 66 and Chevron joined their chemical operations to form Chevron Phillips. It is the largest manufacturer of polyethylene pipe in North America.

I did a little digging of my own. I found a 2012 federal notice warning that a certain model of Driscopipe high-density polyethylene pipe has “the potential for material degradation.” The notice was issued by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The notice says: “Degradation has been identified on [Driscopipe 8000 High Density Polyethylene] pipe between one-half inch to two inches in diameter that was installed between 1978 and 1999 in desert-like environments in the southwestern United States.”

The notice does not mention any explosions. However, it does describe problems in Arizona and Nevada that included a “gas ignition incident” in 2007. I’m no expert, but that sounds like an explosion to me.

The northwest Oklahoma City ONG report did not list the model number of Driscopipe used at the OKC home that exploded. It said the pipe had been installed in 1983. The ONG report cited a poor weld seam as the possible cause of the explosion.

ONG was not eager to point its finger at Driscopipe. ONG spokesperson Cherokee Ballard was quoted as saying, “Any gas pipeline, regardless of material, can be subjected to forces that cause the line to leak, and no particular type, Drisco included, is immune to such occurrences.”

What forces are underground gas pipelines being subjected to? With earthquakes happening almost every day in the Oklahoma City area, it sounds to me like earthquakes are the “forces” Ballard is referring to.

The Pipeline Safety Department of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission is investigating the explosion.

product defects and recalls

Gas Explosions Are Not Uncommon

While I was doing my digging, I came across some statistics about gas explosions. Did you know that there are almost 300 gas explosions a year in the U.S.? I found these stats from the PHMSA:

  • During the 20 years from 1996 to 2015, there were 5,664 gas explosions in the U.S. that caused a fatality or a hospitalization or $50,000 or more in damages. The list does not include explosions that were caused by a fire. That’s an average of 283 gas explosions a year.
  • Those explosions caused 349 fatalities, an average of 17 a year, and 1,351 hospitalizations, an average of 68 a year.
  • They caused a total of $7.4 billion in property damage, an average of $369 million a year.

The Oklahoma City area had another gas explosion on Saturday. An explosion in Yukon destroyed two homes and damaged two more. According to news report, that explosion happened because someone broke into the home and stole a stove, breaking the gas pipe in the process.

Contact an Oklahoma City Personal Injury Lawyer if You Experienced an Injury from a Gas Explosion

An Oklahoma City personal injury attorney of Hasbrook & Hasbrook has the experience and knowledge to help with your case. To set up a free confidential legal consultation, call us at (405) 698-3040.  You will not be charged any fees unless we are able to obtain compensation for the aggravation of your personal injury.