An investigation into the cause of a fuel pipeline blast beneath a western Illinois cornfield is now underway after an explosion late Monday night sent flames hundreds of feet into the sky and left a 15-foot-deep crater before crews were able to stop the gas flow and bring the fire under control, authorities said.
No one suffered injuries in the explosion, which occurred around 11:15 p.m. Monday near the town of Erie, IL, 27 miles northeast of Davenport, Iowa. As a result of the blast, dozens of residents ended up evacuated from their homes as a precaution. The flames were visible for dozens of miles, fire officials said. Most residents were able to return to their homes by early Tuesday morning.
Residents reported hearing a loud blast, said Erie Fire Chief Doug Rutledge, who said the hole created by the explosion was about 20 feet wide and 40 feet long.
“It had a roar like a jet engine,” with flames as high as 250 feet, Rutledge said. “It was something else.”
The pipeline was carrying a mixture of ethane and propane from Iowa City, Iowa, to a petrochemical plant in Morris, IL, 62 miles southwest of Chicago, said Rick Rainey, spokesman for the pipeline’s owner, Houston-based Enterprise Products Partners.
Enterprise Products workers were able to remotely turn off a valve to limit the gas flow to the site, fire officials said.
Rainey said the fuel did not spill, but either vaporized or burned off. He said it is too soon to say what caused the explosion, and the company was investigating.
A spokesman for the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said that agency would investigate, and an inspector was en route to the explosion site. The investigation will include determining if the operator was in compliance with federal pipeline safety regulations.