pipelines extend toward the horizon

Pipeline Explosions

The United States has the largest network of energy pipelines in the world, with approximately 2.6 million miles – a total that is more than 10 times the distance from the earth to the moon.

Those pipelines carry trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of billions of tons of liquid petroleum products yearly. With all of those miles of pipelines come the inevitable problems – lack of regulation, mechanical malfunction, and simple human error, to name a few – that occasionally produce explosions the result in injuries, or even death.

FracTracker Alliance recently published an analysis of fossil fuel pipeline incidents from January 2010 to November 2018, covering three types of pipelines:

  • natural gas transmission lines that carry natural gas from production areas to processing plants and municipal distribution areas;
  • liquids (including oil);
  • and natural gas distribution lines that carry gas from plants to customers.

Data from the analysis showed that those millions of miles of pipelines have resulted in the following:

  • more than 5,500 incidents
  • almost 600 injuries
  • more than 125 fatalities
  • more than 800 fires
  • almost 300 explosions
  • more than $4 billion in damages
  • almost 30,000 people who required evacuation.

This data does not even capture all “incidents,” because the data is not complete. For example, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) estimates that only about 5 percent of gas-gathering pipelines are subject to its pipeline safety regulations.

leaking pipeline

How do these explosions occur?

Although there are myriad ways a pipeline explosion can occur, most of them happen as a result of a few common causes:

  • improper installation
  • excavation
  • defective equipment
  • lapses in maintenance
  • failure to respond in a timely manner
  • improper training.
pipeline in a forest

What can you do if injured?

If you or a loved one has been injured in a pipeline explosion, you might have a claim against the gas company or even a third party. Since pipeline explosions are complicated factually and legally, you need a personal injury attorney who specializes in these kinds of claims.

Elliot Olsen is one such lawyer. He can help you obtain compensation for any injuries you suffered as a result of such an explosion, either by negotiating a generous settlement or, if necessary, pursuing a lawsuit to protect your rights.


  • FracTracker Alliance is a non-profit organization that gathers maps, images, data, and analysis related to the oil and gas industries in the United States, “hoping that a better-informed public will be able to make better informed decisions regarding the world’s energy future.”)
  • The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation responsible for developing and enforcing regulations for the safe, reliable, and environmentally sound operation of pipeline transportation in the United States.
  • The Natural Resources Defense Council is a U.S.-based, non-profit international environmental advocacy group, with headquarters in New York City. Its mission statement: “The NRDC works to safeguard the earth – its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.”