February 8th, 2010

Explosion at Kleen Power Plant, Middletown, Connecticut

Posted at 11:01 AM ET

kleensmallA massive explosion at an under-construction power plant in Middletown, Connecticut, on February 7 badly damaged the structure and killed at least five people. Fire officials said the blast occurred during testing at the Kleen Energy Systems facility, which was 95% complete and due to come online this summer as the largest electricity generating plant in the New England region. Flames and smoke shot up from the 620-megawatt gas-fired facility when the explosion occurred and windows were blown out by the force of the blast. Some people living up to 30 miles (50 kilometers) away said their homes were shaken by the blast. Reports said parts of the plant were badly damaged and surrounded by debris, but other areas of the structure, its roof and its two smokestacks were still standing. Some nearby houses were also reported to have sustained some structural damage.


The explosion happened around 11:17 local time (16:17 UTC) during tests at the plant, triggering a fire. At least 100 firefighters rushed to the scene and the blaze took about an hour to extinguish. Reports said the blast happened as workers for the construction company, O&G Industries, were purging the gas lines to remove debris. Officials have reported five people dead and 12 injured. Middlesex Hospital in Middletown said it received 11 patients from the explosion. One patient with serious injuries was flown to a hospital in Hartford, and another was transferred to Yale New Haven Hospital, according to a statement on Middlesex Hospital’s website. Two others had minor injuries and were treated and released. The remaining seven patients sustained injuries “mainly to the extremities, including broken bones, blunt trauma and abdominal pains”, the statement said.

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Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano said as many as 200 workers were at the site on any given day and the exact number of dead and injured would not be known until each contractor provided a list of employees. Earlier, fire officials said there were some 50 construction workers on the premises at the time of the explosion. Officials said multiple contractors were involved in the project, complicating efforts to account for those who may have been on the site. Rescue teams were still sifting through the rubble overnight but officials said they are hopeful no-one is missing. Officials say there is no further danger to the public, and no evacuations took place. A no-fly zone has been established over the site because of the unstable structure, however. The cause of the explosion has not yet been established and an investigation is expected to begin this week, led by the US Chemical Safety Board, a federal agency that investigates industrial chemical accidents.

Kleen Energy Systems began working on the USD1.35 billion project in February 2008, according to reports. Reports said the company is majority-owned by Energy Investors Funds Group, a private equity firm, and Mayor Giuliano said there had been no safety violations or accidents previously reported at the site. The plant was designed to operate on natural gas using a combined cycle turbine and would have provided electricity to as many as 620,000 homes, reports said. Much of the plant’s power generation equipment was supplied by Germany’s Siemens AG, which was in the process of being installed, according to a Siemens spokeswoman. Reports said the engineering and construction of the project was being overseen by Contractor O&G Industries, of Torrington, Connecticut.

Sources: CNN News, Associated Press, Reuters News, Agence France Presse, BBC News, Connecticut Post, Boston Herald

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