An explosion and fire on Texas Eastern Transmission (Tetco) early Thursday wreaked havoc in Lincoln County, KY, killing one woman, destroying property and cutting natural gas flows in the area, authorities said, describing a scene that looked “more like Mars” than Appalachia.
The Lincoln County Coroner’s office said Lisa Denise Derringer, 58, was killed. Kentucky State Police Trooper Robert Purdy said it appears as though she left her residence and was “overtaken by the heat.” Five others were transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Livestock was also injured, cars were damaged and five homes were destroyed in the blast, Lincoln County Emergency Management Agency Director Don Gilliam said.
Owner Enbridge Inc. said the rupture occurred on a 30-inch line near Danville, about 40 miles south of Lexington. Tetco declared a force majeure and cut north-to-south capacity through the Danville compressor station to zero, sending natural gas prices upward early in the day. The company had isolated the affected line and was working with local officials, but the cause of the blast was unclear.
The blast occurred shortly after 1:20 a.m. ET, and Gilliam said later in the day the site was so hot it would likely impede further investigation until it cooled down.
Enbridge’s Jim McGuffey, manager, said two other pipelines in the right-of-way were not impacted, but the company was sending engineers from Houston to assess the area as part of a response that involved multiple agencies. Tetco’s 30-inch system in the area includes Lines 10, 15 and 25. Line 15 ruptured. Tetco said late Thursday capacity through the Danville station would remain restricted to zero for Friday’s gas day.
Footage of the blast showed a massive fireball against the early morning sky, which Gilliam said was seen from several counties away. The explosion reached hundreds of feet into the air and left scorched earth in its path. A debris field was visible for at least five acres when daylight broke, he said.
“People that were there earlier described it as looking more like Mars,” Purdy added. Gilliam said “the part of the area that has been compromised, there’s just nothing left...The residences that are still standing or damaged will be assessed...There doesn’t really look like there’s any in between back there, they’re either still standing, or may have some siding melting off, damage of that sort.”
A nearby highway, U.S. 127, was also closed Thursday morning to allow first responders better access to the site. Up to seven people were initially thought to be missing, but by Thursday afternoon, they had been located.
“We don’t believe that we have anybody else that is unaccounted for at this time,” Purdy said. “After being at the scene and walking through, frankly that is surprising.”
At least 75 people in the area were evacuated, and a nearby church was opened to shelter them. Gilliam said people would be allowed to return to their homes late Thursday. Nearby railroad infrastructure was also damaged by the explosion.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said the incident was “truly heartbreaking,” adding that he has no plans to visit the site as there’s nothing more he can do at this point. “I’m truly grateful for the people who were involved as they were out of the gate to ensure it wasn’t a bigger problem.”
An incident earlier this year on Tetco cut more than 1 Bcf/d when the pipeline exploded in Noble County, OH, injuring two residents and damaging property. Three years ago, the line also exploded in Westmoreland County, PA, severely burning one person and causing significant property damage.