UPDATE: Revolution Gas Plant Fire Christmas Day

David E. Hess provides a detailed update on the Christmas Day ’22 event at Energy Transfer’s Revolution Cryogenic Gas Plant in Smith Township, Washington County, PA:

DEP Ongoing Explosion/Fire Investigation: Energy Transfer Reported An Uncontrolled Release Of Ethane For 9.5 Hours From Its Revolution Natural Gas Processing Plant In Washington County

(Photos: Top- Plant flare system continues to burn with dirty, black smoke – Jan. 8 photo;
Original fire at the plant; Bottom- DEP inspection report photos of plant damage.)

By David E. Hess | PA Environment Digest Blog | January 10, 2023

A January 3 DEP inspection report shows Energy Transfer reported a nine and a half hour uncontrolled release of ethane and other vapors from its Revolution Cryogenic Natural Gas Processing Plant in Smith Township, Washington County during a Christmas Day explosion and fire at the plant.

DEP Inspection Report:
The company reported ethane and other vapors began to leak at about 7:20 a.m. on December 25 and ceased as of 4:59 p.m. the same day.

The Observer-Reporter newspaper said the fire burned for 11 hours.  Read more here.

There is no estimate yet of how much ethane was released or burned in the explosion and fire.  “ETC staff are calculating the estimated quantity of gas release.”

Ethane is a heavier-than-air gas that is highly flammable and reactive chemical.  Contact with ethane can cause frostbite.  Exposure can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and very high levels can cause suffocation from lack of oxygen.  Click Here for more.

ETHANE Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet:

Natural gas cryogenic plants take natural gas and cool it to sub-zero temperatures– minus 120 degrees Fahrenheit– in order to condense and separate out liquids like butane, ethane and propane from the gas.

Although still under investigation, the inspection report quotes a company employee as saying Energy Transfer determined a leaking valve from the “water wash area” resulted in a vapor cloud of ethane and other vapors from a one inch line under 500 pounds pressure.  

“The vapor cloud then ignited and the fire spread to surrounding equipment.  The ignition source is currently unknown.”

The explosion caused a “loss of communications systems” within the plant and as a result “video footage of the plant’s open flare” is unavailable.  However, another plant official said visible emissions [black smoke] was noted from the flare.

“ETC is still assessing damage and repair needs at the facility.  Primary operations at the facility remain on hold,” DEP said in a January 9 update.

DEP’s January 3 inspection report quotes Air Quality Engineering Specialist Alex Sandy as saying, “… replacement of equipment authorized by the current Air Quality permit may require a new authorization to ensure the latest standards are met.”

Flaring Continues/Plant Shutdown?

Although DEP said the facility is “shutdown until further notice,” according to the inspection report, on January 8, residents near the facility took photos and video of combustible gases being burned off through the plant’s flaring system for hours.  

On January 10, an Observer-Reporter reporter article said the facility has “resumed partial operations.”

However, a photo taken by residents shows the flare is giving off black smoke, an indication of incomplete combustion and further possible malfunctions at the plant.

DEP’s inspection report notes they inspected the flare system on January 3 and it seemed “to be in good working order.”

On January 9, DEP said its staff is “aware of the flaring” and the flaring “is part of DEP’s ongoing investigation of the facility” to determine the cause of the December 25 explosion and whether any environmental regulations were violated before the fire and are continuing with the flaring.

Cat Lodge, a resident near the facility said the plant and another similar plant across the road owned by MarkWest had problems with flaring in the past.

Harmon Creek Gas Plant with Burgettstown Jr/Sr High School campus in the background. MARCELLUS AIR

“Black smoke is an incomplete combustion and that’s a [air pollution] violation.  They’re not allowed to do that. It’s supposed to be a clean burn so that it isn’t coming out black.”

Cat Lodge

“Black smoke is an incomplete combustion and that’s a [air pollution] violation.  They’re not allowed to do that,” said Lodge.  “It’s supposed to be a clean burn so that it isn’t coming out black.”

MarkWest Plant Expansion

Multiple natural gas facilities are located in the Smith Township area of Washington County.

Within two miles of Cat Lodge’s home there are 10 well pads, 4 compressor stations, 2 cryogenic natural gas processing plants, 1 metering station, 1 residual waste landfill, multiple pipelines and pig launcher and receivers throughout our farming areas.

View area of compressor stations and gas plants south of PIT International Airport on Google Maps here.

Imperial-Cibus Ranch GP5 permitting in 2015:
Harmon Creek

The MarkWest Harmon Creek Cryogenic Natural Gas Processing Plant next to the Energy Transfer plant is now applying for DEP Air Quality Approval to expand the plant.

On January 3, three environmental groups asked DEP for an extension of the public comment period on the Air Quality Approval, which started December 3 and continued through the holidays.

Comments on Proposed Plan Approval – Harmon Creek Gas Plant 2:

The Environmental Integrity Project, Clean Air Council and PennFuture said the MarkWest Plant had a history of frequent and illegal flaring events almost monthly in 2020 and 2021.

The letter also said, “As a preliminary matter, the Department should complete a full investigation of the explosion and fire at the Energy Transfers Revolution Gas Plant on December 25, 2022 before issuing a final Plan Approval.” 

The MarkWest and Energy Transfer facilities have similar designs.

DEP has not yet responded to the groups’ January 3 letter.


— Observer-Reporter: Energy Transfer Natural Gas Cryogenic Plant Resumes Partial Operations [1.10.23]

Related Articles:

Observer-Reporter: Explosion, Fire At Energy Transfer’s Revolution Natural Gas Cryogenic Plant Burned For Nearly 11 Hours On Christmas Day In Smith Twp., Washington County

Guest Essay: Counties, PEMA Need To Include A Complete Vulnerability Assessment Of All Natural Gas Facilities In State, County Hazard Mitigation Emergency Plans

[Posted: January 10, 2023]  PA Environment Digest | Source


Earlier Blog:

Marcellus Shale Gas Industry Ruins Christmas Again


Pa. natural gas plant explosion under investigation in Washington County
January 12, 2023
– The state issued construction and operating permits for the plant in 2018. According to DEP records, it’s had problems in its short life. In 2021, the company was cited by the state for “failure to prevent visible emissions into the atmosphere” during a March 2021 inspection. The company agreed to a civil penalty of $15,550 later that year. Energy Transfer pleaded no contest last year to environmental crimes for infractions and accidents on two major pipelines in the state.

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