Otterburne gas line blast blamed on old crack in pipe

A crack that went undetected for 50 years is being blamed for a massive natural gas pipeline explosion near Otterburne, Man., in 2014.

Blast forced evacuation of homes in the area and created crater 24 metres long by 12.5 metres wide

A natural gas pipeline near Otterburne in January 2014 shot flames hundreds of meters into the sky. (courtesy Ken Peters)

A crack that went undetected for five decades is being blamed for a massive natural gas pipeline explosion near Otterburne, Man., in 2014.

The blast sent balls of flames 200 to 300 metres into the air, forced the evacuation of five homes in the area, and created a crater 24 metres long by 12.5 metres wide.

The force of the explosion also threw debris about 100 metres from the rupture site, according to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB), which investigated the incident and released its report on Tuesday.

The investigation found a crack had formed at the time of the pipeline's construction, more than 50 years earlier, likely due to an inadequate welding process and poor welding quality.

However, it had remained stable all that time and went undetected. But due to incremental stresses over the years — due to weakened soil support in the area, record low temperatures that winter, and recent work around the valve site that may have driven frost deeper into the ground — the crack fractured.

Natural gas burned for approximately 12 hours after the blast, forcing highway 303 to be closed until the fire could be extinguished.

As a precaution, two adjacent pipelines were shut down, assessed, and returned to service a little while later. As a result, nine rural communities were without natural gas service for about 80 hours — at a time when the temperature was –26 C .

There were no injuries.

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