Aging Infrastructure May Be Major Contributor to Gas Explosions

The tragic death of a 12-year-old girl in a gas explosion is the latest in a string of natural gas fires and leaks reported in recent weeks in the aging Northwest Dallas neighborhood where she lived. The explosion prompted an immediate investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and triggered numerous evacuations in the neighborhood due to possible gas leaks.

According to Dallas pipeline and gas explosion attorney Tom Carse, Atmos Energy must do a better job monitoring its aging pipeline infrastructure. He says although federal and state law requires an odorant be added to natural gas, its effectiveness is limited.

“When natural gas escapes from underground steel pipelines damaged by excavation or from soil expansion and contraction, the gas is scrubbed of its distinctive odorant, leaving the escaping gas essentially odorless,” says Mr. Carse. “Industry experts refer to this phenomenon as ‘odor fade.’ Recent explosions in Ellis and Johnson counties that resulted in severe injury, death and enormous property damage have been directly linked to leaking underground natural gas that went undetected until after the blast events.

“In addition, technological advances such as residential excess flow valves as mandated by Texas and federal law can help cut the flow of escaping natural gas from damage due to an excavation. However, older corroded infrastructure presents more of a potential for catastrophic events such as that recently experienced here in Dallas. Time will tell, however it should not surprise anyone involved in the investigation if corroded infrastructure is found to be a major contributor to this preventable event.”

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