Eagle Ford Explosion in Kenedy: Saltwater Disposal Site Caught Fire
An oil field worker at Kerlick Well #1 off Highway 80 near Gillett, Texas, was seriously injured when a couple of disposal tanks caught fire. According to Karnes County authorities, the oil worker was conducting a daily inspection of the tanks at the well’s saltwater disposal site, where residual oil is skimmed from the tanks, while oilfield brine is pumped back into the ground. Apparently, the worker created static electricity as he climbed the catwalk, and it was that spark that set off the explosion that resulted in his being airlifted to a San Antonio hospital.
Emergency responders arrived on the scene quickly, as did the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Texas Commission on Environment Quality (TCEQ) and the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC) to begin an investigation into the incident. It was the TRC that issued the permit for the facility two years ago. According to their records, the TRC recently received a protest filed by a nearby rancher who was concerned about his water well and his livestock.
While the TRC found no current record of violations by the owner and operator of the site, Gulf Coast Acquisitions, their inspection process has uncovered more than 55,000 violations at oil and gas facilities statewide so far this year, with 400 of them considered major infractions. In all, the TRC has assessed companies for upwards of $1.17 million in penalties for those violations.
Last week’s explosion came almost a week after six workers were injured in an explosion the week before at the water pipeline for a working well Falls City. The injured workers sustained second and third degree burns. Though most OSHA employees have been furloughed due to the federal government shutdown, their response team has been investigating the scenes of both accidents.
Most oilfield accidents and explosions are avoidable, if companies are operating with property safety procedures in place. But sometimes, drilling companies are too interested in squeezing every last drop of oil out of a well to take worker safety into account, and people get hurt.