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PHMSA Proposes $1.6M Fine Against Transco for October Blast

The Transportation Department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has proposed levying a $1.6 million fine against Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Co. (Transco) for an explosion and fire that killed four workers in Louisiana last October.

PHMSA conducted an investigation and inspection following the Oct. 8, 2015 explosion and fire at Compressor Station No. 62 near Gibson, LA (see Daily GPIOct. 9, 2015). In a letter last Friday to Transco, PHMSA alleged that the company violated several federal pipeline regulations, including a failure to take steps to prevent the explosion.

According to PHMSA, Transco allegedly failed to stop workers from welding after a gas leak was detected inside a 42-inch liquids header of the slug catcher at the site. The company also allegedly failed to provide all significant facts from the incident to the National Response Center (NRC); violated its own internal procedures by allowing untrained contractor personnel to assume safety and monitoring responsibilities at the time of the blast; and did not follow its Operator Qualification (OQ) Plan.

Under a proposed a compliance order, PHMSA ordered Transco to, within 30 days, revise its incident reporting requirements procedures to the NRC and review its operating and maintenance procedures in order to prevent accidental ignition around gas leaks. The company will also have a month to make sure "the roles and responsibilities are clearly delineated for operator and contractor roles to ensure that only trained and qualified personnel issue and supervise hot work."

Transco will have 180 days to make changes ensuring future compliance with its OQ Plan its Gas Handling Plan procedure. PHMSA also requested that the company keep records for the safety improvement costs associated with fulfilling the compliance order.

The company has 30 days to respond to PHMSA's notice [CPF 4-2016-1008]. PHMSA said its compliance officer had determined that three of the five violations outlined in the notice merit a $400,000 fine. The remaining two violations will cost Transco $200,000 each.

Williams Partners LP owns the compressor station, which is located in Terrebonne Parish, LA. The facility is about 60 miles from the company's Geismar Olefins facility, where an explosion and fire in June 2013 killed one person and injured dozens (see Daily GPI, Dec. 31, 2014; June 14, 2013).

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