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Anadarko Oil Tanker Fire in Weld County, CO, Kills One, Injures Three

One person was killed and three people were injured Thursday at an Anadarko Petroleum Corp. oil tanker site in Weld County, CO.

The site in Mead is about four miles north of Firestone, where an investigation is ongoing into a house explosion in April that killed two men and severely injured a woman. The suspected cause of the Firestone explosion is a severed natural gas line that was connected to an oil and gas well operated by Anadarko.

According to the Weld County Sheriff's Office, the oil tanker blaze Thursday afternoon may have been sparked during maintenance activities. The first responders, Mountain View Fire and Rescue, said when they arrived on the scene near County Road 13 and Highway 66, the oil tank battery was fully engulfed in flames.

The tank facility ignited around 3:15 MT “as contract crews were doing maintenance," Anadarko spokeswoman Helen Wells told NGI's Shale Daily. "Local fire departments and law enforcement responded to extinguish the fire and secure the area. At this time, we can confirm one person was fatally injured and three others have been transported to local medical facilities for treatment.”

Work crews were finishing projects associated with a facility upgrade, she said. "The facility was not in operation at the time of the incident." The site had been secured early Friday and an investigation was initiated to determine the cause.

The unidentified person who was killed was found when deputies, firefighters and Anadarko personnel combed the area, the sheriff's department said.

No evacuations were ordered as there was no hazard to residents, Mountain View Fire said.

Three Firestone Wells Shuttered

Following the Firestone explosion in the Oak Meadows subdivision, Anadarko temporarily shut in all of its 3,000-plus operated vertical wells across northeastern Colorado. It is inspecting all of its wells, with a priority on wells and infrastructure in closer proximity to homes and communities. Anadarko's Craig Walters, vice president of Rockies operations, met on Wednesday with the Oak Meadows Homeowners Association. The Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission also participated.

The explosion in Firestone, which claimed the lives of Mark Joseph Martinez, 42, and his brother-in-law, Joseph William Irwin III, also 42, "has left us all shaken," Walters told the residents.

The incident severely injured Martinez's wife, Erin, who remains in the hospital. "We know nothing we can do or say can undo what has happened. We continue to pray for Mrs. Martinez’s recovery and for their families and loved ones."

In light of the Firestone explosion, also under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, Anadarko has shut in the three active wells near the Oak Meadows neighborhood. The Frederick-Firestone Fire Protection District's investigation determined that the wells were not the problem, nor was the one well's proximity to the Martinez home. Rather, the fire department said the issue focused on the one-inch diameter low-pressure return line that was severed near the home's foundation.

"To address that specific issue, we are disconnecting all similar one-inch low-pressure return lines from our vertical wells across the entire basin," Walters said. "This is a significant step beyond what the state has required in its notice to operators.

"We will cut the return lines off below the ground and plug the ends with cement. We will cap these lines so they cannot be reconnected again."

In addition, each of the three wells near the Oak Meadows neighborhood has since undergone more inspections.

"We are confident these wells would be safe to bring back on production at a future date," Walters said. "However, we recognize the special circumstances and sensitivity around this particular equipment, and therefore, made the decision to take these three wells offline, permanently."

At the homeowners association's request, Anadarko also agreed to pay for residents to buy natural gas detection devices.

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