Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Rachel Anderson | The Associated Press) This image provided by Rachel Anderson shows officials at the site of an explosion and fire at a natural gas processing facility and major national pipeline hub on Wednesday in Opal, Wyo. Officials said there are no reports of injuries and the residents of Opal have been evacuated to an area about 3 miles outside the town as a precaution. Opal has about 95 residents and is about 100 miles northeast of Salt Lake City.
Small Wyoming town evacuated after gas explosion
First Published Apr 23 2014 04:40 pm • Last Updated Apr 23 2014 10:02 pm

OPAL, Wyo. • A small town in southwest Wyoming was evacuated Wednesday after an explosion and fire at a natural gas processing facility and major national pipeline hub. There were no reports of injuries.

The gas has been shut off, but people who were in Opal, about 100 miles northeast of Salt Lake City, went to an area about 3 miles outside of town as a precaution, said Lincoln County spokesman Stephen Malik. The town has about 95 residents.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"They were downwind from the plant," said Lincoln County Sheriff Shane Johnson. "The fire was still very active, and because of the nature of the processing that goes on there, that was the call that was made for safety reasons."

Johnson said he didn’t know when people would be allowed back into Opal.

No structures in the town were affected, and the fire was confined to the facility operated by pipeline operator Williams Partners LP, county officials said. Williams is based in Tulsa, Okla.

The explosion occurred in the plant’s cryogenic processing tower, a structure that chills unrefined natural gas to separate out impurities, but officials didn’t yet know what caused the blast.

All employees at the gas processing plant were accounted for, Williams spokesman Tom Droege said.

The explosion was reported at about 2 p.m., and the fire continued to burn into the evening. Williams spokeswoman Michele Swaner said it was being allowed to burn itself out.

The gas processing plant in Opal removes carbon dioxide and other impurities from natural gas that comes from gas fields in the region. It sends 1.5 billion cubic feet of refined gas per day into pipelines that go to urban centers to the east, west and south.

The Opal hub, where regional pipelines converge, is the principal spot where prices are set for natural gas produced from the large gas fields in western Wyoming and the San Juan Basin in Utah. The plant makes Opal perhaps best known as a regional gas-pricing hub. Government officials and industry insiders closely watch Opal hub prices to monitor trends with regional gas supply and demand.


story continues below
story continues below

Williams operates the Northwest Pipeline, which runs through Opal on its way to the Pacific Northwest. An explosion in March at a liquefied natural gas facility operated by Williams on the Washington-Oregon border injured five employees.

Gas from the Williams plant at Opal serves a huge number of customers from the Pacific Northwest to Southern California, the Southwest and even as far east as Ohio, said Brian Jeffries, executive director of the Wyoming Pipeline Authority.

How long the plant would be out of commission was unknown, but Jeffries said the effect won’t be as bad as if the explosion occurred during winter, when demand for natural gas increases for heating, or summer, when demand increases to generate electricity for air conditioners.

"It really is that time of year when it’s sort of least likely to impact customers," he said.

Williams was paying to lodge Opal residents at the Little America resort about 25 miles east of Opal, and at a Best Western in Kemmerer, about 15 miles to the west.

"We want to make sure everybody’s taken care of and they’re put up for the night if they’re not able to go back to their houses," Swaner said.

"Since nobody’s on site, it’s going to take some time before we can begin our investigation," Swaner said.

Renny MacKay, spokesman for Gov. Matt Mead, said investigators would look into the cause of the explosion once the site was secured.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.