2010 and 2011 witnessed a record number of natural gas pipeline explosions. In that two-year time span, more than 50 pipeline explosions and failure were reported, including tragic incidences involving multiple deaths.
The explosions and the deaths were sad witness to the dangers associated with an aging pipeline infrastructure and the failure on the part of gas pipeline companies to properly maintain, repair, and update their pipeline facilities. In one five month period alone, there were more than fourteen (14) explosions, killing seventeen (17) people and critically injuring many more. The explosions in that short span included the explosions of the natural gas pipeline owned by Pacific Gas & Electric in San Bruno, California on September 9, 2010, the gas pipeline owned by Consumers Energy in Wayne, Michigan on December 29, 2010, and the gas pipeline owned by UGI Utilities in Allentown, Pennsylvania on February 10, 2011.
The explosions represent fundamental failures to adopt safety programs of any appropriate magnitude. The pipelines are constructed of metal and are typically buried underground. As such, they have a natural susceptibility to corrode and fail, whether from internal or external corrosion, failure of welded seams, or failure at weakened points like wrinkle bends. Until companies budget and spend the money to renovate their pipeline systems, the explosions and deaths will continue.