Pipeline restores gas flow after lightning-sparked inferno

Published 12:20 am Sunday, April 30, 2023

Natural gas is flowing again in a Mississippi pipeline after a towering blaze Friday that officials believe was caused by a lightning strike.

The pipeline’s owner, TC Energy Corp. of Calgary, Alberta, said Saturday that it had “completed operational adjustments.” The Canadian company notified its customers through an electronic system that it was lifting the force majeure it had declared on Friday. The contract term allows the pipeline to curtail deliveries because of forces outside the owner’s control.

Tina Faraca, president of TC Energy’s U.S. Natural Gas unit, told investors on a conference call Friday that the blaze caused “very minimal impact to facilities.”

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Alcorn County Emergency Management Director Ricky Gibens told local news outlets that firefighters were called to the compressor station of the Columbia Gulf Transmission Pipeline northeast of Corinth around 1 a.m. Friday. He said it appears that lightning sheared off a piece of pipe and set the natural gas ablaze.

Firefighters and workers with TC Energy closed valves, which Gibens said may have prevented an explosion. The fire burned for more than four hours until firefighters could put it out.

Nearby resident Philip Trest told WTVA-TV that the flames glowed over treetops and sounded like a jet engine.
No one was injured.

The compressor station helps push natural gas through the Columbia Gulf Transmission Pipeline, which runs between Kentucky and Louisiana. The pipeline carries natural gas from southern Appalachia to liquefied natural gas terminals in Louisiana, where it’s frozen into a liquid and loaded onto giant ships for export.