A natural gas plant in Fort Saskatchewan owned by BP Canada, which had about 160,000 cubic meters of ethane gas in it, exploded early Sunday morning sending a gas plume into the sky that could be seen several miles away. Four workers at the site at the time of the accident were safely evacuated, and an investigation has begun on the cause.

According to eye witnesses, the storage cavern at BP Canada’s gas liquids plant erupted in flames around 9:30 a.m. Sunday, sending a fireball into the sky, which could be seen as far away as Edmonton, which is several miles away. BP Canada officials said the ethane had begun leaking Sunday morning around 8 a.m., about an hour and a half before the explosion from one of the wellheads that controls the storage cavern, and workers had tried to eliminate all sources of ignition. Following the first explosion, a second wellhead ignited. The Firemaster company was on site Sunday night to begin dousing the fire with water in an attempt to cap the well, and crews had succeeded cooling down the area.

The BP Canada cavern apparently has enough gas in it to burn for a month, according to one official. The well was connected to a storage cavern about 2,000 meters underground and the cavern can hold up to 1 million bbl. BP Canada did not know how much the explosion has cost in terms of supply and downtime, but noted that the ethane gas is toxic and it is safer burning than leaking.

©Copyright 2001 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.