An oil well explosion and fire near Waterford City, ND took the life of
one worker and caused serious injuries to three others. The
explosion occurred at a well site operated by XTO Energy Inc.—which is a subsidiary
of prominent ExxonMobil—on Saturday morning.
By the time emergency workers arrived on the scene, the fire was already
out. Two of the workers suffered third-degree burns to 70 percent of their
bodies. They were airlifted from the scene to the Regions Burn Center
in St. Paul, MN. They are currently listed in critical condition. A third
worker was treated for some minor burns at a Waterford City hospital and
has since been released.
A 52-year-old worker from Rock Springs, Wyoming tragically passed away
on Saturday afternoon, just shortly after the incident, from the injuries
he suffered in the explosion and fire.
This was the first oilfield-related death to occur in North Dakota since
late August 2015. In comparison, seven deaths happened in the same length
of time during fiscal 2015. Overall, there have been 48 oilfield-related
deaths since 2010 in North Dakota.
Split in Pipe Potentially Caused Deadly Explosion
According to XTO Energy, the men were contractors for a company that provides
oil well maintenance. The men were all on a workover rig used for performing
oil well maintenance. Initial findings indicate that there was a gas pipe
breach that ignited, possibly causing the explosion. XTO Energy is continuing
to work with regulators to determine the exact
cause of the explosion.
"There was a split in a pipe, and there was an explosion," said
officials from the
U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Investigators spent Monday reviewing the accident scene and gathering
evidence to find the cause of the breach and the actual source of ignition.
Crews that are on workover rigs are known to have one of the most dangerous
jobs in an oilfield. In response to this danger, OSHA has increased inspections
and vigilance on ignition sources over the years, issuing 30 citations
for safety violations since 2012 to improve