DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald
DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald
GEM VILLAGE – An explosion at a large gas compression station owned by BP killed one worker and seriously injured two others.
The explosion, which occurred about 8:15 a.m. Monday at BP’s Pinon Compression Station, temporarily closed U.S. Highway 160 five miles east of Elmore’s Corner.
“At this time, our immediate concern is for the people involved,” said Julie Levy, a local spokeswoman for BP.
The plant was shutdown, and there was no remaining threat to workers or the public, she said. The blast was not related to any of the wildfires that have broken out in the area.
“The incident is essentially over,” Levy said.
One contract worker died and two contract workers were injured, she said. Eleven workers were on site during the explosion.
“Everybody has been accounted for, and there is nothing ongoing about this incident,” she said.
Residents in the area reported hearing the explosion.
La Plata County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Dan Bender said it was not a flammable explosion; rather, one involving a pressurized device.
“There was pressure being put into a device, and that device failed,” he said.
Levy said the blast occurred during a routine maintenance operation on a pipeline in which a device was sent through the system to collect data.
“We’re still investigating the exact nature of the incident, but we do know it did occur during this process,” she said.
It was too soon to know the extent of the damage or how long the plant might be shutdown, she said.
The highway reopened after about a half hour.
“Initially, we didn’t know the nature of the explosion,” Bender said. “We closed Highway 160 until it was determined there was not a threat to other people. This was an isolated incident at one compressor station.”
The compression station is BP’s largest in La Plata County. It collects natural gas from well sites and sends it through another pipeline for storage. It handles about 30 million cubic feet of gas per day and prepares it to be sold on the market or stored.
The station is located on the north side of Highway 160 near a fire station owned by the Upper Pine Fire Protection District between Elmore’s Corner and Bayfield.
It is on Bureau of Land Management land, said Shannon Borders, a BLM spokeswoman for Southwest Colorado.
BP did not release names of the three workers who were injured or killed.
“We are deeply saddened that one individual was fatally injured in the accident,” BP wrote in a news release. “We are working to ensure that all those affected by the accident are receiving support and counseling services.”
The company reported two workforce deaths in 2011: a rail-related fatality in the United States and another who died as a result of an unauthorized transfer of petrol in South Africa.
La Plata County sent mental-health professionals to assist BP employees, said Butch Knowlton, director of the county’s office of emergency management.
He said the county has a good working relationship with the energy giant.
“It’s unfortunate the accident occurred, but they react to these types of situations very quickly,” he said. “They plan and train for these types of occurrences.”
Local emergency workers work regularly with BP and other energy companies in the region on disaster preparedness, said Mark Quick, director of the hazardous-materials team for the Durango Fire & Rescue Authority.
When an explosion occurs, it is standard procedure for emergency workers to arrive on scene and make contact with a representative who will guide them around the facility. Emergency workers will not enter a facility without a guide, Quick said.
“BP is working with us and talking to us and constantly trying to make things safer,” he said.
SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald