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Part 1: Fatal Explosion in San Bruno Caused By Poor Welding?

Craig McClellan

In September of 2010, a natural gas pipeline exploded in San Bruno, California, near San Francisco. Eight people were killed in the explosion, and more injured. The explosion, which occurred at night, also destroyed over 40 homes.

The fatal accident caused damage to over 15 acres of land in San Bruno and, according to a previous article by the New York Times, was so intense that officials first believed that it was the result of a plane crash. Photos taken immediately after the explosion showed images of a street engulfed by a giant fireball.

The Pacific Gas and Electric Co. stated that one of the gas lines in the area had burst. According to previous records, the pipe supposedly was seamless. But upon further investigation after the explosion, the pipe had been welded with seams that had several defects. The poor welding could mean that the pipe was not strong enough to withstand the pressure that the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. believed it could contain.

But investigators are also considering whether an increase in pressure contributed to the explosion. Prior to the explosion, an incident caused the pressure to increase suddenly. Both the measurement of the pressure as well as the pressure increase itself is under investigation.

At this point, it is still uncertain what exactly caused the deadly explosion. Was it a combination of the poorly welded pipes and the pressure spike? It seems that this question and others will be addressed in a hearing in March.

Another question that people may be wondering is what happens to the families who lost loved ones in the explosion? Or those who were seriously injured? These questions we plan to address in the next blog post.