NEWS

Fire still burning at Prud'Homme pumping station

10/12/2014 12:29 EDT | Updated 12/12/2014 05:59 EST
A natural gas fire continues to burn near Prud'Homme, Sask., about 70 km northeast of Saskatoon, after an explosion at a TransGas pumping station Saturday morning. 

SaskEnergy spokesperson Dave Burdeniuk told CBC News Sunday that the fire burned through the night with flames more than 18 metres high.

SaskEnergy has been conducting air quality tests in the area, and said there is no concern. However, the 12 people who were evacuated with from their homes on Saturday are still not allowed to return.

The crown corporation has also called in specialized firefighters from the oilfield, and hope to have the fire out as soon as possible, he said. 

"We hope to have this off today," Burdeniuk said.

"[But] these jobs can sometimes take a couple of days or even longer but we hope to have it off today and we're going to make every attempt to do that."

And while the flames are extreme, Burdeniuk said it is burning similarly to when they do controlled flares in natural gas pipelines. The crews are taking the same precautions as if there was a natural gas fire in a home.

"It's a natural gas flame — no different than if we're working with fire departments," he said. 

Fire will burn until gas is shut off

But because of that, crews need to turn off the gas supply before it will stop burning. 

"You can't put a natural gas fire out with water, you've got to shut off the gas supply and then the fire will go out. So this is really no different, you can't pour water on this and put the fire out you've got to actually get in there, close off the gas supply and the fire will go out."

​According to Burdeniuk, no one is sure what is wrong with the wellhead that made it ignite in the first place, but crews worked through the night gathering information. Firefighters donned specialized fire gear and heat shields and walking right into the flames. 

"We don't know what's wrong with it ... we need to get as much intelligence as possible to make sure that by trying to turn off part of the well head you don't create another problem," Burdeniuk said.

But there is good news. Burdeniuk said the flames are coming out of the side of the damaged well head and then shooting straight up. This means crews should be able to work with the existing equipment, and not have to replace anything before putting the fire out. 

According to Burdeniuk this is only the second time since 1964 that SaskEnergy has had a natural gas release from a cavern that they have not been able to shut off themselves and, the first time they have had a fire at a cavern wellhead. 

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