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Accident Report Detail

Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation Natural Gas Pipeline Explosion and Fire

Executive Summary

‚ÄčAbout 11 :55 p.m, on March 23, 1994, a 36 inch diameter pipeline owned and operated by Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation ruptured catastrophically in Ellison Township, New Jersey, within the property of Quality Materials, Inc., an asphalt plant, The force of the rupture and of natural gas escaping al II pressure of about 970 psig (pounds-per-square-inch gauge) excavated the soil around the pipe and blew gas hundreds of feet into the air, propelling pipe fragments, rocks, and debris more than 800 feet. Within 1 to 2 minutes of the rupture. One of several possible sources ignited the escaping gas, sending flames upward 400 to 500 feet in the air. Heat radiating from the massive fire ignited several building roofs in a nearby apartment complex. Occupants, alerted to the emergency by noises from escaping gas and rocks hitting the roofs, fled from the burning buildings. The fire destroyed eight buildings. Approximately 1.500 apartment residents were evacuated.

Most injuries were minor foot burns and cuts that apartment residents sustained from the hot pavement and glass shards as they fled the complex. Response personnel evacuated 23 people to a local hospital and another estimated 70 apartment residents made their own way to hospitals. where they were treated and released. No resident of the complex suffered a fatal injury as a result of this accident. However, a woman who lived about 1 mile from the accident site and who had a history of heart trouble suffered a heart attack and died shortly after the rupture and fire. Damage from the accident exceeded $25 million.

Contributing to the rupture were the brittle properties of the pipe material at the operating temperature. Contributing to the severity of the accident was the inability of Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation to promptly stop the flow of natural gas to the rupture.

Probable Cause

‚ÄčThe National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the rupture of Texas Eastern Transmission Corporation's Line 20 in Edison Township, New Jersey, was mechanical damage to the exterior surface of the pipe that reduced the wall thickness and likely created a crack in the gouge that grew, most likely through metal fatigue, to critical size.

Accident Location: Edison , NJ    
Accident Date: 3/23/1994
Accident ID: DCA94MP001

Date Adopted: 1/18/1995
NTSB Number: PAR-95-01
NTIS Number: PB95-916501