Pipeline leaks happen all the time. Many leaks have devastating consequences for the environment, but immediate human death is not a common one. If you google “fatal pipeline accidents”, you’ll find that natural gas pipelines are the source of most human fatalities from pipeline explosions. Pipelines carrying petroleum liquids (oil, gas, jet fuel) also leak but are much less likely to cause fatalities.
Natural gas is bad enough, but the Dragonpipe (Mariner East 2) will carry far more dangerous products than natural gas. These products, which the company calls “natural gas liquids” (NGLs), are the volatile gases butane, propane, and ethane, compressed until they form a liquid. If there is a leak, they would instantly squirt out in the form of a flammable gas that is several times more explosive than natural gas. In the case of a sizable leak, if the gas ignited there would be a huge fireball, followed by a giant blowtorch-like column of flame that (even if the pipeline were shut down immediately) would last for hours or days, until the contents of that section of the pipeline had burned off.
Is there a deadlier type of pipeline? If there is a potentially deadlier type of pipeline outside of a chemical plant, I haven’t been able to discover it in searching the Web. (Readers, if you find examples, please let me know!) Until someone finds a better candidate, my assumption is that this pipeline will be one of the world’s most dangerous. And since the gas is odorless and colorless, a leak from this pipeline would usually be undetectable until it ignited.
Fortunately, there are very few NGL pipelines in operation. Most of them are in Texas, and are far shorter than the Dragonpipe. That means relatively few leaks so far. The only real example (that I am aware of) of a pipeline explosion involving this material east of the Mississippi has happened away from population centers, in a forest near Follansbee, WV. No one was around, but several acres of trees were burned, and the fire lasted for many hours.
Can you imagine what the result would be if the same thing happened in Exton or Aston or one of the other densely-populated areas the pipeline is to run through?
Contact your representatives in Harrisburg and in your own municipality to demand adequate oversight of this pipeline. We can’t let the world’s deadliest pipeline run right through our neighborhoods!