From 1998 to 2018, records show that gas distribution lines – the smaller gas pipelines that distribute gas to businesses and homes – were responsible for 646 explosions. That’s an eye-popping average of 32 a year, or more than 2.5 per month.
Those accidents produced the following statistics, as reported by the Pipeline Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration (PHMSA):
- Total fatalities: 221 (11 per year)
- Total injuries: 967 (48 per year)
In the largest event during that 20-year stretch, a massive gas explosion in San Bruno, California, killed eight people and injured 51 on Sept. 9, 2010.
Nearly 8 years to the day later, on Sept. 13, 2018, gas explosions destroyed 40 Massachusetts homes, killed one person, and sent 21 others to hospitals. Excessive pressure in natural gas lines owned by Columbia Gas of Massachusetts caused a series of explosions and fires in as many as 40 homes, with more than 80 fires, in the Merrimack Valley towns of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover. In addition to the one death and multiple injuries, 30,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes.
Those are merely two examples of the type of devastation that can be caused by gas explosions.
According to the American Gas Association, more than 77 million U.S. homes are supplied by natural gas pipelines. Gas not only provides 29 percent of energy in the United States, it is used to heat almost half the homes in the country, as well as generate 40 percent of electricity.
Although a gas system is more expensive to purchase and install than an electric system, it is cheaper in the long run. Heating water uses a lot of power, so gas systems can save households a lot of money. Gas heaters quickly and efficiently heat small- to medium-sized rooms, and they are generally cost effective.
What is a gas explosion?
When gas leaks into a confined space, it creates a mixture of gas and air. As gas continues to escape, the ratio of gas to air increases, and so does the pressure.
When the gas-to-air ratio reaches a certain level, it can be ignited by a single spark and even static electricity. A spark will ignite the gas, setting off a conflagration. The gas expands as it heats, causing the pressure to reach intolerable levels and resulting in an explosion. When that happens, windows in the room will blow out, and substantial damage can result for both people and property.
Why do gas explosions occur?
There are numerous causes of a gas explosion:
- defective equipment, such as pipes, regulators, or meters
- improper installation
- lapses in maintenance
- failure to respond in a timely manner
- improper training.
What can you do if injured?
If you or a loved one has been injured in a residential gas explosion, you might have a claim against the gas company, or even a third party. You will need a personal injury attorney who specializes in these kinds of claims.
Elliot Olsen can help you obtain compensation for any injuries you suffered as a result of a gas explosion, either by negotiating a significant settlement or, if necessary, pursuing a lawsuit.