Safety experts weigh in on impact left after pipeline explosion in Brazoria County on Thursday

Lileana Pearson Image
Saturday, July 15, 2023
See 24 hour difference after refinery pipe explosion in Brazoria Co.
ABC13 was back on scene of the Brazoria Co. pipeline fire and talks with an expert on what residents in the area need to look out for 24 hours after.

BRAZORIA COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Thursday started with clear blue skies in Brazoria County, with hardly a cloud on the horizon. Casey Smith was out working the farmland when something exploded.

"You could feel the heat from very far away, very far away. And the pressure was immense. You could feel the pressure, the sound, the smell," Smith said.

In a statement, INEOS said pipes carrying ethylene and propylene exploded. Those chemicals, we're told, were fuel for a fire.

ORIGINAL REPORT: SkyEye video shows massive pipeline fire in Brazoria County after reports of 'large explosion'

"These are very commonplace compounds that are cousins of natural gas, so they are very, very similar to natural gas but are used in everyday household products," Ramanan Krishnamoorti, VP of energy and innovation for the University of Houston, said.

Krishnamoorti said these chemicals are not carcinogenic, and with a release, the concern isn't for the land or water nearby but for smoke impacting the air quality.

"During a raging fire, you are likely to create some amount of soot. Carbon soot is black carbon soot that falls back down on the ground, but typically in the absence of very strong wind, they will typically fall back into the ground at a close proximity," he said.

Krishnamoorti said it could take a month or even a year to determine what caused the spark to ignite the highly flammable chemicals. In that investigation, he's interested to know if this is part of a bigger issue for INEOS.

"Is this symptomatic of a bigger set of issues that could emerge for those pipelines and in those facilities? We don't want a repetition of something like this," Krishnamoorti said.

No one was hurt in the explosion, and it happened in rural Brazoria County, where no buildings or major roads were impacted. The owner whose land the demolished pipe runs through said that's the best-case scenario.

"If you had a home in short distance of this, it would no longer be there," owner Terry Hlavinka said.

Krishnamoorti said underground pipes are a good way to transport these chemicals. Typically, they are buried away from neighborhoods and community spaces.

"They are usually not in places that are commonly inhabited by people. They might run through agricultural fields, but even in those areas, the rights of way are clearly marked," Krishnamoorti said.

If you are in an area where pipes have been laid, there are a few ways to tell something might be off.

"If they smell something funny, they should immediately inform the emergency room, police. That's the right place to do it. Just getting that word out if you don't smell something right. It's important if you see vibrations. Those are all tell-tale signs something isn't right," Krishnamoorti said.

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