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Worker Killed & 3 Injured in ND Oil Well Explosion

Posted By Arnold & Itkin || 21-Jun-2016

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 compliance.

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