Following the September 5, 2015 fire that occurred at the St. Vincent Compressor Station located in Kittson County, Minnesota, TransCanada sent our trained personnel to respond and investigate what exactly happened. At this point, the cause of the fire is not known but we have learned a few things we are able to share.
There was no mainline pipeline rupture, no substantial damage to our equipment and facilities from the fire, no injuries, and there has been no impact to our customers as a result of this event.
The station and pipeline were isolated ensuring no gas was flowing into or through the station. We elected to let some gas burn off, and the remaining gas was released though a controlled venting of the pipeline segment. Isolating the pipeline and allowing the fire to self-extinguish removes any remaining flammable vapors and is considered the safest practice in any natural gas fire. This decision was the safest method for employees, responders, residents and the facility; there was no danger with letting the gas burn. As well, the local fire department supported our decisions and was on-site to assist if necessary.
We have identified that the source of the event was due to a failure of a manufactured component on a location indicator tool used when an internal inspection – called “pigging” – is performed on the pipe. We were not “pigging” the line at the time.
This is a unique event and we have engaged expert consultants to aid in developing a root-cause analysis of this incident. This station has been safely operating since the first line was constructed nearly 50 years ago.
There have been some erroneous statements made in the media and on social media about the incident; we believe it’s important not only to correct these misstatements but to be open about what we’ve learned from our ongoing investigation.
There were initial reports than people were evacuated from their homes in Manitoba. TransCanada personnel have met with all of the adjacent land owners north of the Emerson meter station in Manitoba. None of them were evacuated; they were notified by local fire and RCMP about a possible evacuation but none were evacuated.
We’ve also seen claims that this compressor station is “the same pipeline that will be converted to Energy East.” This is not true. This segment of line is not part of the Energy East conversion nor is it a part of the route.
Safety is our priority
The safety of the public, employees, property and the environment is paramount to TransCanada. Our response procedures were followed with precision; these procedures are designed to ensure maximum safety. TransCanada conducts regular emergency response exercises so in the event of an incident we can respond quickly and decisively. In 2014, we conducted more than 120 emergency response drills.
No safety incidents are acceptable. Our goal is to ensure the public is never negatively affected by the safety and reliability of our pipeline and energy assets. We will not be satisfied until we achieve our goal of zero incidents. As we continue to conduct our investigation we will work closely with government agencies to ensure learnings from this incident are recorded and applied where appropriate.
We appreciate the support we’ve received from the community, community leaders and local emergency personnel in response to our safe and swift action.