COOLIDGE, Ariz. - Federal investigators have released a new report on the deadly pipeline explosion in Coolidge that happened nearly 20 months ago.
The new report not only answers some questions about why the blast happened, but it also states the problem could have possibly been caught sooner.
Here's what you should know.
What happened that led to the report?
The gas line blast happened on the morning of August 15, 2021.
According to our initial report, numerous people called about hearing a possible explosion near Highway 87 in the Coolidge area, and the blast led to the deaths of a man named Luis Alverez and his daughter, 14-year-old Valerie Alverez.
Another person, identified as Rosalina Alvarez, was taken to the hospital with burn injuries. Several animals on the farm were also injured, and some were killed.
At the time, Energy company Kinder Morgan said there was a pipeline failure, and that they would be investigating what caused the leak.
The company released a statement on what happened in the aftermath of the incident, which reads:
"At approximately 5:45 a.m. MST today, El Paso Natural Gas Company, L.L.C. (EPNG) experienced a pipeline failure on the EPNG system near the City of Coolidge, Pinal County, Arizona near Randolph Rd., east of Hwy. 87. A fire was reported at the site and has been extinguished. All EPNG employees have been accounted for.
The company has deployed employees to the area and has isolated the impacted pipeline segment. The company is coordinating with local first responders and relevant state and federal agencies, and an investigation into the cause of the failure will be conducted."
The blast was caught on a security camera in the area.
When was the pipeline installed?
According to our earlier reports, the pipeline was installed in 1986, and it was never intended for transporting natural gas: it was originally built to transport crude oil.
The line was reportedly converted to transport natural gas in 2002, and in 2012, Kinder Morgan purchased the line.
Wasn't there already a report out on the explosion?
In September 2022, the National Transportation Safety Board released a 1,200-page report into its investigation of the explosion.
According to the documents released by NTSB officials, Kinder Morgan got a notification from the control center out of Colorado that the pressure in the pipe was decreasing, while at the same time, they got a report of a massive fire growing.
They contacted their field personnel to start shutting down equipment and isolate the affected area, slowing the amount of gas flowing through. But they struggled to close one of the valves, taking more than two hours to shut ii off, which eventually helped slow the fire.
The report, however, did not determine the blast's cause.
What does the new report say about the explosion?
The new report blames bad recordkeeping, as well as the use of wrong coating for the blast.
In the report, officials with NTSB say they determined the probable cause of the pipeline rupture was "tented tape wrap" leading to "stress corrosion cracking" - a fracture and a subsequent rupture.
Investigators also say Kinder Morgan failed to record the correct coating type used for this segment of the pipeline. The pipeline reportedly used what is known as ‘spiral wrap tape coating,’ which is known to be more vulnerable than other coatings.
The failure to record the correct coating type used for the pipeline segment, according to NTSB officials, led to a risk assessment that did not fully identify the risk of stress corrosion cracking. Investigators say if that was properly recorded and known, the threat could have been identified.
Can I read the report?
You can read the report below.
What is Kinder Morgan officials saying about the report?
Officials with the firm have released a statement, which reads:
"Kinder Morgan has reviewed the final report from the NTSB on its EPNG Line 2000 incident, and we appreciate and value the important role that the NTSB and PHMSA have taken throughout the investigation. We deeply regret the loss of life and injuries that occurred as a result of the accident.
Safety is a core value for Kinder Morgan, and we have carefully and extensively reviewed our processes and procedures following this incident to strengthen our pipeline integrity programs. To date, we have performed the following:
- Repaired the accident site and replaced the ruptured pipe with new line pipe.
- Conducted multiple pipeline integrity tests across the entire Line 2000 segment, including multiple pressure tests and leak surveys.
- Revised and enhanced our existing Stress Corrosion Cracking (SCC) program risk models.
- Performed additional risk assessments outside of the corrective action order requirements.
- Collaborated with an in-line inspection vendor to enhance the capability and accuracy of SCC assessment technologies, including the use of tools such as x-ray CT imagery.
We will continue to incorporate any additional best practices, along with evaluating new technologies, to improve our entire pipeline integrity program."
What's next for the pipeline involved in the crash?
In January 2023, Kinder Morgan submitted a request to restart the line. It was approved and restarted mid-February.