NTSB Confirms Cause of Last Year’s Deadly Pipeline Explosion


Pipeline Explosion. | Image from wsj

On December 7th, the NTSB gave a statement revealing who was responsible for the Enterprise Products pipeline explosion in August 2020, killing five near the Corpus Christi port.

According to a release by the NTSB, a nearby dredge called the “Waymon Boyd” smashed its cutter head into the underwater pipeline TX219, causing the explosion. Large amounts of propane rapidly escaped the line, which caused further ignition throughout the dredge’s engine room.

The NTSB concluded after their investigation that “Inadequate planning and risk management by the dredging company, Orion Marine Group, meant that not enough controls were in place to mitigate the risk of the cutter head breaching pipeline TX219.”

Orion was accused of not having thorough plans before dredging the area. Schneider Engineering and Consulting, the provider of the dredge plans, is also deemed responsible for the insufficient planning.

The NTSB stated that Orion also failed to provide accurate and relevant information to the “call-before-you-dig” line, which assists dredges in avoiding pipelines.

Four crewmembers on and around the dredge were killed during the accident. Days after, a fifth crew member succumbed to his injuries while hospitalized in San Antonio, Reuters reported.

Reports after the incident detail that an additional six people on the dredge were injured. The Waymon Boyd sank after being engulfed in flames, destroying the $9.48 million ship. NTSB and Enterprise Products officials stated that the damage to the pipeline totaled $2.09 million.

The US Coast Guard later classified the accident as a “major marine casualty.” An early NTSB hypothesis stated the dredge possibly struck the underwater pipeline, but it was officially confirmed as the cause on Tuesday.

After the investigation, the NTSB “made recommendations to the companies involved in the accident to implement or update policies and procedures for dredging near pipelines.”

They also asked federal regulators to consider expanding the safety protocol for dredging operations—both Enterprise Products and Orion state that they would cooperate with any changes to their safety programs.

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