Video: Natural Gas Pipeline Explodes Under a Cornfield in Illinois


natural gas fire

We talk about alternative fuels a lot here at Gas 2 (it’s kind of our thing), but with all the talk surrounding the dangers of fracking (earthquakes, poisoned dirt, and polluted groundwater, among them) we often forget that natural gas is seriously, Seriously volatile. Unfortunately, some 80 families and several acres of cornfield got a harsh reminder of natural gas’ more immediate dangers last night in the Western Illinois town of Erie, where residents heard a massive blast and saw flames rising more than 300 feet into the air.

The gas-fueled fireball was visible for more than 20 miles, and videographers over 3 miles from the cordoned-off area said “you can hear the roar of the pressure at this time.”

Despite the magnitude of the natural gas explosion and the damage done to roughly a square mile of cornfields (approx. 600 acres) and air-traffic reports that the fire was visible from the air more than 160 miles away in Pawnee. Still, there was no (reported) loss of life, and all but 2 of the families evacuated from the area are expected to be back home tonight. Yay!!

The gas pipeline that exploded last night is (was?) owned by Enterprise Products Partners, a Houston-based energy company that operates nearly 50,000 miles of natural gas, oil, and petrochemical pipeline throughout the country. Despite being one of the many oil and gas companies lobbying for more lax government regulation, a quick search shows that, in August of 2011, an EPP pipeline carrying leaked an unknown amount of the volatile liquid into the Missouri River in Iowa. So, yeah. There’s that.

You can watch the video and listen to the photographer’s police/emergency response scanner, below. While you’re doing so, try to remember that corn and sugar fields, windmills, and solar panels tend NOT to explode like this. Just sayin’.


Source: Climate Progress.

About the Author

I’ve been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.

  • AaronD12

    Wow! That’s bad news. Imagine if a larger pipeline (e.g., Keystone XL) did the same thing.

    • Jo Borras

      Keystone is oil – that might burn, but it really can’t explode. Liquid combustion is based on surface area, which is why Hollywood explosions don’t happen IRL car wrecks.

      • AaronD12

        Sometimes I wonder how cool fender-benders would be if cars *did* explode like that! Okay, OTHER people’s cars… ^_^

      • T Adkins

        They do mix the tar oil with a natural gas liquid condensate to make the tar less thick/solid so it will move down the pipe. The Natural gas returning to gas form at a leak point is one of the ‘fun’ issues with the current Keystone pipe.

        • Jo Borras

          Good point!

  • EdselFord

    Now this is news is worthy of copy and paste. Go Jo, go jo, do the copy do the paste, gona make you look good, oh yeaaahhh, not really.

    • Jo Borras

      I’m just excited that Pawnee is a real place!

  • egogg

    Fascinating. This pipeline runs parallel to one I’m working on right now. Hopefully the fire is out by the time I get down that far south.

    • Jo Borras

      Yeesh. Be safe, brotherman.

      • egogg

        I’m generally programming automation systems at the pump stations, and not out in the middle of cornfields. I suppose accidents happen there too, but in my experience most problems are caused by some farmer with a backhoe.

        • Jo Borras

          “Out in the middle of cornfields” is where this happened. BE. SAFE.

  • wilhel

    please Mr. Borras, a bit more mature journalism.

  • Pingback: Video: Natural Gas Pipeline Explosion in Illinois()


  • Pingback: Is the Gov't-funded Fracking Bubble About to Burst?()

  • Pingback: Everything You Wanted to Know About Fracking, but Were Afraid to Ask()