An oil tank explosion in New Baden, Texas, that left an oilfield worker critically injured earlier in July, has been called a "freak accident" by well-owner Tom Finaly.
According to The Eagle, the worker was using a cutting torch to remove bolts from a catwalk at the top of the 12,000 gallon storage tank when oil sludge left inside it combusted. The worker is expected to make a full recovery despite the extent of his injuries. His family launched a GoFundMe campaign to help raise funds to cover medical costs.
The majority of the young worker's injuries were sustained due to his safety harness pulling him back toward the tank after being blown off the top. The news source reported that he sustained severe burns, broken facial bones and legs and punctures to his face, head and neck. The site is being investigated by the Texas Railroad Commission due to reports of oil leakage from the tanks. Furthermore, investigations are underway to discover if there is any fault for improper cleaning of the tanks, which should have been thoroughly scrubbed and purged with an inert gas.
The catwalk removal was happening concurrently with a well plugging, as the well hadn't been being used. The site was inspected and due for decommission, with all equipment to be removed. The pump was in disrepair and about 20 barrels worth of oil and water had leaked from one tank onsite. Two tanks exploded in the incident, taking more than an hour to extinguish.
It is essential in any oilfield, whether in full operation or when being dismantled, that full safety precautions are taken. Proper oilfield safety training and consulting can help ensure incidents such as this are minimized in the future.