Methane Cloud Linked to Fire at Kinder Morgan Compression Station

(P&GJ) — U.S. pipeline operator Kinder Morgan Inc. said that a methane cloud seen above Alabama last month was possibly triggered by a natural-gas discharge following a fire at a compressor station owned by the company.

According to Kinder Morgan representative Katherine Hill, the flash fire was contained to a limited portion of its Gallion Compressor Station, Bloomberg reported. Workers were advised to follow standard safety procedures by executing an emergency shutdown of the compressor station, which led to a controlled release of natural gas from the facility that aided in extinguishing the fire.

The Kinder Morgan incident released around 38,400 thousand cubic feet of gas—and consequently methane—over the course of about 20 minutes, despite the fact that planned releases during emergencies can reduce damage and fatalities. It emphasizes the trade-offs between safety and climate that fossil fuels present: the leak may end up having the same global warming effect over a 20-year period as the annual emissions from around 11,700 US cars.

According to Kinder Morgan, the Gallion fire happened on Oct. 20 during the commissioning of an automation enhancement project. The cause is being looked into. The Southern Natural Gas pipeline system passes through Gallion.

The plume was discovered by the Sentinel-5P satellite of the European Space Agency, and Kayrros SAS examined the data. 

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