Gas fire believed accident

The roof line of Williams Central Compressor Station in Brooklyn Twp. shows visible damage from a fire that damaged one of three engines in the building. The station was in its testing phase and was not operational when fire broke out late Tuesday (May 14) night. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

The roof line of Williams Central Compressor Station in Brooklyn Twp. shows visible damage from a fire that damaged one of three engines in the building. The station was in its testing phase and was not operational when fire broke out late Tuesday (May 14) night. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

BY JOSEPH KOHUT
Times-Shamrock Writer

A fire and possible explosion at a Susquehanna County gas compressor station late Tuesday night remain under investigation but is thought to be an accident, a state police fire marshal said.

At 11 p.m., flames lit up a Williams Partners LP gas compressor station on Turnpike Road in Brooklyn Twp. None of the 11 workers on site were injured, but a possible blast and the flames caused moderate damage to the station. The facility’s automatic safety devices functioned properly and stemmed the flow of gas to the compressor station.

The fire was out by 12:30 a.m., Williams reported to the state Department of Environmental Protection. The exact cause remains under investigation by a state police fire marshal.

At the scene Wednesday afternoon, Williams spokeswoman Chris Staffel said the station was in the commissioning phase.

A sensor in the compressor building detected fire in a 4,000 horsepower compressor and the building went into emergency shutdown by isolating incoming and outgoing lines along with the facility’s two other compressor units, the DEP said in a report.

Initial reports said it was an explosion, but DEP said Williams could not confirm all the details. However, bulging walls in the building indicated there may have been an explosion.

DEP air quality engineer/emergency response team member Shailesh Patel discussed specific air quality issues with Williams Site Operations Manager Mike Dickinson and recommended an air quality program follow up.

Williams told DEP the station was in total shutdown “and would remain that way at the present time until operations could resume safely.”

The fire late Tuesday was the second at a Williams compressor station in the county in 14 months. An explosion at the Lathrop compressor station in Springville Twp. in March 2012 blew a hole in the roof of the complex. The same set of emergency procedures kicked in and staunched the gas flow into and out of the station.

No one was injured in that blast, which was caused by worker error, and Williams was not fined by DEP because the incident did not violate the station’s air quality permits or federal pollution laws, the DEP reported in April. About 1 ton of methane was released in that blast, clocking in below the greenhouse gas threshold that would have required them to seek a permit used by bigger facilities.
(Staff writer Staci Wilson contributed to this report.)