Fatal Explosion

Dissolved filter separator cap ignites at Austrian natural gas plant

A fatal explosion at an Austrian natural gas facility caused one death and left at least 18 others injured Tuesday.

The plant’s operator—Gas Connect—is a major natural gas distributor for several European countries. Countries including Italy, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia are connected via the centrally-located Austrian hub in Baumgarten an der March where the explosion occurred, which sits 30 miles east of Vienna, near the Slovakian border.

Of the injured, Austrian police said that one person was “seriously injured and 20 others slightly hurt” from the incident, which occurred in the morning. The initial explosion triggered a fire that was partially contained by a perimeter for the remainder of the morning while employees were evacuated. The fire was extinguished by mid-afternoon. The facility remained offline through Tuesday, causing volatility in gas prices in many of the recipient countries, namely Italy, which was forced to declare a state of emergency. Reuters reported on Wednesday that gas supply to neighboring countries had been restored, as the plant turned its attention to identifying the source of the explosion.

 

Police initially said the explosion was triggered by a “technical cause” Tuesday. Gas Connect released a report Wednesday (translated from German) identifying a filter separator as the cause:

“The first indications that the accident originated from a newly installed filter separator have condensed in the course of today. The investigating authorities assume that the cap of the filter separator caused the disaster. This had dissolved and hit with great force against another part of the plant and has also damaged this. As a result, the resulting gas ignited, resulting in a gas fire at the two exit points. Immediately, an emergency plan was put in place, which led to a shutdown of the entire gas station. The damaged parts of the plant were isolated from the entire station, which allowed the international gas transport to be resumed during the night.”

Gas Connect describes the Baumgarten plant, where pipelines bringing gas from Russia, Norway and other countries connect and gas is compressed and cooled, as one of Europe’s most important gas supply hubs.

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