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Hancock County pipeline fire scorched five acres

FOLLANSBEE, W.Va. — Nearly 24,000 barrels of Marcellus and Utica shale ethane burned five acres of Brooke County woodland when the 20-inch ATEX Express pipeline exploded Monday, federal investigators believe.

According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the blast east of Follansbee occurred when the 20-inch pipeline failed near a section that had been welded together.

Regulators are still working to determine the actual cause of the rupture, however. The corrective action order shows the pressure inside the pipeline at the time of the accident did not exceed the level officials with Enterprise Products, the pipeline’s owner, determined would be safe.

In addition to scorching the woodland, the accident damaged the house siding of a home roughly 2,000 feet from the blast, PHMSA information states.

The report, prepared by PHMSA Associate Administrator Jeffrey Wiese, states, “Given that the location of the rupture appears to be at a circumferential weld, and that the pipeline runs across hilly terrain, there is an increased risk that other vulnerabilities exist.”

Transportation department spokesman Damon Hill said Thursday that Enterprise will need to develop a detailed repair plan and restart plan before pumping ethane through the damaged area of the pipeline again. Moreover, the company will have to run the line at only 80 percent of the pressure it saw at the time it failed.

Enterprise officials declined to comment late Thursday.

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