Natural gas is essential to the health of the American economy. Fortunately, it is abundantly available from at two general sources: 1) from gas wells that are drilled specifically to harvest natural gas and 2) as a by-product of the refining of crude oil into other substances such as gasoline and diesel fuel. However, the harvesting and processing of natural can be dangerous unless strict safety protocols are followed.
On this page, the oilfield and refinery accident lawyer at the Doan Law Firm will give a brief review of the causes of natural gas explosions and the more-common types of injuries such explosions can cause. He will then conclude with an explanation of the legal options that may be available to those injured by natural gas explosions.
Natural Gas Use by Industry in 2017
According to theU.S. Energy Information Agency, in calendar year 2017 the United States consumed about 27trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas. The following list is adapted from the Energy Information Agency website and gives the type of use followed, in parentheses, by Tcf used and the percentage of the total natural gas usage in the United States.
Electric power generation (9.25 Tcf, 34%)
Industrial (7.9 Tcf, 29%)
Residential (4.42 Tcf, 16%)
Commercial (3.18 Tcf, 12%)
Lease and plant fuel consumption (1.61 Tcf, 6%)
Pipeline / Distribution (0.69 Tcf, 3%)
Vehicle fuel (0.04 Tcf, 0.2%)
In the above figures, note that electrical power generation and industrial applications account for almost 2/3 of total natural gas usage in United States!
Causes of Natural Gas Explosions
The fact that natural gas explosions are relatively uncommon is largely due to modern engineering technology and strict safety regulation enforcement by federal regulators such as the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). However, many natural gas explosions are due to a combination of human error and equipment failure.
For a natural gas explosion to occur, three things must be present:
Substances such as methane, propane, and butane (the usual components of natural gas) exist as vapors (gases) in their natural state. As a general rule, gases will react with other substances at a faster rate than will a liquid or a solid.
if a substance is to “burn,” it must have an adequate supply of oxygen. In most natural gas explosions, the oxygen that is present in the atmosphere is sufficient to support the chemical reaction that leads to an explosion.
A source of ignition
Natural gas and oxygen willnot, in and of themselves, combine to release energy in the form of heat. To begin the chemical reaction where natural gas “burns,” there must be some form of external injury applied to the gas / oxygen mixture. In many cases, a natural gas explosion is due to a spark caused by static electricity or a carelessly disposed of cigarette. Once the gas and oxygen begin to react, it is very difficult to stop the reaction and, if conditions are right, an explosion will occur.
Injuries Related to Natural Gas Explosions
Natural gas explosions can cause a number of injuries and those injuries can range from minor cuts and scratches to life-threatening. Explosions can also cause injuries that are fatal “at the scene” or cause the accident victim’s death at a later time. Regardless of their severity, natural gas injuries usually result in 1 or more of the followingtypes.
The most common injuries suffered in a natural gas explosion are burns, which can vary in seriousness from minor reddening of the skin to a life-threatening injury where there is extensive damage to the victim’s skin and muscle tissue. Extensive burns are very difficult to treat and often require months of treatment on a “Burn Unit” at a major medical center.
Concussion or “blast” injuries
Every explosion produces waves of displaced air. These “blast” waves can be so intense that they hurl personnel and equipment server feet or turn small objects into deadly shrapnel. In humans, blast injuries can vary from minor bruising to massive internal injuries that are sometimes fata;.
In natural gas explosions, it is common for those near the explosion to inhale the “superheated” air created by the explosion. This may cause injury to the cells that line the airways to swell and lead to an obstructed airway. Also, the accident victim my inhale gases that did not burn completely and these substances may damage the lungs and upper respiratory tract. In either case, such injuries are difficult to treat and may be fatal.
Why You Need a Natural Gas Explosion Lawyer
Natural gas explosions, although relatively rare, can cause extensive property damage as well as serious injury to those who happen to be near the explosion. Personal injuries caused by natural gas explosions can vary from minor cuts and bruises to extensive burns. In some cases, natural gas explosions have caused injuries that led to the death of an accident victim.
If you were injured by a natural gas explosion, you have the right to demand compensation for your injuries. Depending on the circumstances of you injury, you may be entitled to:
payment of any current and anticipated future medical expenses incurred as a result of the explosion
payment of any wages or income that you lost while injured and unable to work
repair or replacement of any personal and/or real property damaged or lost due to the explosion
compensation for “pain and suffering” that you experienced due to the explosion
“punitive” or “exemplary” damages that may be assessed against the party whose negligence caused the explosion
if the explosion resulted in the death of a family member, replacement of any wages that the family member would have been expected to earn, along with funeral costs and probate expenses
Although you may be entitled to receive damages after a natural gas explosion, with the possible exception of Workmen’s Compensation, it is unlikely that the party responsible for the explosion will offer to pay for your losses. It is therefore often necessary for accident victims and their families to retain the services of an experienced natural gas explosion injury law firm. One such law firm is the Doan Law Firm, a nationwide personal injury law practice with offices in major cities throughout the country.
When you contact the natural gas explosion injury lawyer at the Doan Law Firm, your first consultation and accident case review is always free of any charge and does not obligate you to hire us as your legal counsel in your potential natural gas explosion injury lawsuit. Should you decide that we should represent you in court, we are willing to assume full responsibility for all aspects of preparing your case for trial in exchange for an agreed-upon percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.