A limited number of personnel from Williams Partners LP have entered the damaged natural gas processing facility in Opal, WY, and were working Friday to secure and evaluate operations following an explosion Wednesday that shut off close to 1 Bcf/d of supply to interstate pipelines for almost a day.

It may take weeks before the cause of explosion, which occurred Wednesday around 2 p.m. MT, is known, said Williams (see Daily GPI, April 24). About 40 employees escaped uninjured, and the nearby town of Opal was evacuated overnight. Residents returned home Thursday.

The fire still was burning on Friday at the Lincoln County facility in southwestern Wyoming; it was being allowed to burn out.

Genscape Inc. told NGI that some of the shuttered gas was being rerouted to the Pioneer Processing Plant nearby in Sublette County, WY, operated by Enterprise Products Partners LP. Pioneer’s two units are able to process up to 1.35 Bcf/d net.

A Williams official said the Opal plant’s emergency procedures “performed as designed when the incident occurred…The cause will be thoroughly investigated, in cooperation with regulatory agencies and local authorities. Once an assessment of the plant has been made, company personnel expect to make an estimate on how long the plant will be shut down.” Williams is majority owner of the pipeline partnership.

The explosion affected cryogenic processing unit TXP-3, one of five at the facility, which has a maximum capacity of 1.5 Bcf/d. TXP-3 is the biggest of the five, with cryogenic processing train able to handle up to 390 MMcf/d. Trains No. 4 and 5 each handle up to 350 MMcf/d, while train No. 1 processes 245 MMcf/d and No. 2 handles 150 MMcf/d.

The Opal plant, which initially began operations in 1958, has undergone expansions over the past few decades to serve the growing needs of Rockies gas producers. The first of five turbo-expanders was built in 1983, with the most recent beginning service in 2006.

Opal receives gas from gathering pipelines that serve areas that include the Greater Green River Basin, Big Piney, Jonah/Pinedale and Moxa/Green River. Interstate pipeline connections include Kern River Gas Transmission, Williams’ Northwest Pipeline, Questar Corp. and Colorado Interstate Gas Co. LLC. Gas liquids also are carried through the Overland Pass Pipeline for transport to the Midcontinent market center in Conway, KS, and to the Mid-America Pipeline, or MAPL.

Updates on the explosion are provided as warranted at www.williams.com. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office also is posting news on its Facebook page.