(Adds confirmation that plant shut, market outlook, stockpiles)
April 23 An explosion on Wednesday shut a
natural gas-processing plant in Wyoming that can churn out about
2 percent of the daily U.S. gas supply, and a nearby town was
evacuated though no injuries were reported.
The blast at the Williams Companies Inc plant in
Opal, Wyoming, touched off a fire that was still burning several
hours later, company spokeswoman Michele Swaner said.
She said all 42 employees of the plant had been accounted
for and were not injured. The Lincoln County Sheriff's
Department said the fire had been contained to one area of the
plant. Shelters were set up for people in the town of 100 people
and nearby Highway 30 was closed.
The explosion, at least the second safety incident suffered
by Williams Companies in the last few weeks, could affect prices
on Thursday when the market starts trading for gas to be
delivered on Friday. W-OPT-IDX
The Williams plant feeds into the Opal Hub, a crossroads for
five pipelines that connect to California, Oregon and Canada and
head east across the Rocky Mountains. Gas at the Opal Hub for
Thursday delivery rose 6 cents to $4.63 per million British
Wyoming and U.S. regulators were not available to comment or
say if gas flows at the Hub would be affected. Utilities used a
record amount of gas this past winter to meet heating needs
during unusual cold snaps that caused volatile prices and
left stockpiles at their lowest level since 2003.
A string of accidents involving the country's overburdened
pipeline and rail infrastructure has prompted new safety
concerns as U.S. output of oil and gas surges during an
On March 31, a pipeline within its liquefied natural gas
facility in Washington exploded and shrapnel from the blast
caused a leak in one of two liquefied natural gas tanks,
prompting evacuation orders near the plant outside the rural
town of Plymouth.
On April 7, a Williams unit said that a gas gathering
pipeline in West Virginia caught fire.
Williams operates two natural gas processing plants in
Wyoming which remove liquids and other impurities from natural
gas to allow it to be transported in large pipelines.
Gas comes to the processing plants from the Williams
gathering system, a network of 3,500 miles (5,600 km) of
pipelines which collect gas produced in the region.
The Opal processing plant has capacity of 1.5 Bcf/day. That
is about 2 percent of U.S. daily gas supply of some 70 Bcf/d.
Including the Echo Springs processing plant, which was not
affected by the explosion, the combined daily capacity of the
two plants is more than 2.2 Bcf/d of natural gas and nearly
125,000 barrels per day (bpd) of natural gas liquids.
Wyoming leads the nation in coal production and is also a
top gas producer. Wyoming accounted for more than 7 percent of
U.S. marketed gas production in 2013, according to the U.S.
Energy Information Administration.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Additional reporting by Eileen
O'Grady; Writing by Terry Wade; Editing by Sandra Maler)