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OSHA Investigating MarkWest Energy Gas Plant Explosion Near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating last week’s explosion at a MarkWest Energy gas processing plant outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that left four pipeline contractors severely burned.

Condensate Ignited During Pipeline Cleaning

The blast erupted at the Houston, Washington County facility shortly after 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 13th.

Apparently, workers were cleaning a pipeline, when vapors caught fire and ignited condensate from a nearby temporary storage tank.

Medics airlifted four people to burn units in Pittsburgh, including UPMC Mercy Hospital and West Penn Hospital.

Initial reports indicated the victims were MarkWest Energy employees. Later, however, authorities confirmed they were with West Virginia-based Energy Transportation LLC.

MarkWest Explosion Involved 300-Barrel Condensate Tank

MarkWest Energy’s Houston Processing and Fractionation Facility is located just 24 miles south of Pittsburgh,

The plant is one of 6 MarkWest facilities in Pennsylvania and West Virginia that process gas from the Marcellus shale.

Early reports suggested the explosion involved a large tank filled with ethylene glycol. On Friday, however, a Washington County official said it actually contained 300 barrels of condensate with properties similar to gasoline.

OSHA Probe Will Focus on Workplace Safety Violations

OSHA inspectors arrived at the MarkWest Energy plant on Friday. They will try to determine if any workplace safety violations contributed to the explosion.

According to a spokesperson with OSHA’s Philadelphia office, the inspectors have 6 months to complete their probe.

In addition to OSHA, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the state Fire Marshall’s office dispatched investigators to the plant.

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