Washington, DC, September 21, 2010 – The CSB issues the following statement from Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso responding to an executive order issued today by Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell prohibiting natural gas blow procedures at power plants as a means of cleaning out piping in preparation for start up of the facilities.
I am very pleased with the actions by Governor Rell and the state of Connecticut in moving to immediately prohibit the practice of gas blows. This unsafe practice needs to stop.
Governor Rell has provided a model that other states and the federal government should follow. I especially applaud the governor’s resolve to never compromise the safety of any worker.
The CSB investigated the fatal explosion at Connecticut-based Kleen Energy which occurred February 7, 2010, which killed six workers and injured many others. The blast occurred during a “gas blow” – a planned effort to clean out new fuel-gas piping leading to combustion turbines by directing high-pressure natural gas through the pipes and out of vents located near ground level, adjacent to the power generation building. The gas accumulated above the lower explosive limit and ignited, causing massive damage to the new billion-dollar facility, which was nearing completion.
The CSB determined that the practice of gas blows is inherently unsafe, and the Board issued 18 urgent recommendations to numerous organizations calling for an end to the practice, and the substitution of safer alternatives such as using forced air or nitrogen to clean debris from piping, or “pigging,” a device that is pushed through piping.
The CSB recommended that the governor and legislature of Connecticut enact legislation applicable to power plants that prohibits the use of flammable gas that is released to the atmosphere to clean fuel gas piping.
The board also issued a recommendation to OSHA, calling on the regulatory agency to prohibit the release of flammable gas to the atmosphere for the purpose of cleaning fuel gas piping.
The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.
The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Visit our website, www.csb.gov.
For more information, contact Sandy Gilmour at 202-261-7614 or 202-251-5496 cell.