Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

December 23, 2011

Men welding on tank escape injury when it explodes

Mineral Wells Index

By Libby Cluett | lcluett@mineralwellsindex.com

Mineral Wells firefighters, EMTs and paramedics responded to J&S Salvage around 10 a.m. Thursday after a large steel storage vessel exploded.

An individual started using an acetylene torch to cut up a tank for salvage, and cut about two inches into the metal when the top blew off, according to crews responding to police and fire crew members responding to the scene. Several said the welders hadn’t purged the tank of vapors, by filling it with water, before cutting into it.

Two men were welding on the bottom of the tank, which lay on its side in the yard of the business, located at 3202 Municipal Highway 379. Although they vented the top of the tank, which was welded on, it exploded off and blew several yards away, explained firefighter/EMT Terry Ortiz. He added that no one was injured.

Compression from the tanks internal vapors exploded the tank within seconds of when the welder began cutting it with a torch, Ortiz explained. He said storage tanks, like this one, continue to hold vapors in the steel from their flammable, and often explosive, contents.

It appeared the massive, heavy tank – used in oil fields – also moved several yards away from the work area.

“He’s so lucky,” Ortiz said of the man welding. “He has no idea how lucky he is. It scared him a bit.”

Firefighters had to use foam to cool the hot tank, since it initially didn’t react well to water.

J&S Salvage owner Scotty O’Shield said he purchased a special saw no-spark for this purpose, but he said he wasn’t present when his employees opted to use the torch.