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Facility:
Puebla Oil Pipeline
Location:
Puebla, Mexico
Date of accident:
19 December 2010
Type of accident:
  • Release of toxic/flammable materials
  • Explosion
  • Fire
Offshore/onshore accident:
Onshore
Number of fatalities:
29
Number of people injured:
52

Puebla Oil Pipeline, Puebla, Mexico, 19 December 2010

SUMMARY

The Nuevo Teapa pipeline is a 30-inch pipeline owned by state company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) carrying oil from the port of Dos Bocas in Tabasco to the Tula refinery in Hidalgo. As for many other pipelines owned by Pemex across Mexico, the pipeline had been the recipient of several illegal taps by criminal gangs in order to siphon off the fuel. Over 100 such taps had been detected by Pemex in 2010 along the length of the pipeline and 60 of these were detected in the area in and around the Puebla state alone.

 

ACCIDENT DESCRIPTION

At around 5:50am on the morning of 19th December 2010, a large explosion occurred in the city of San Martin Texmelucan in the Mexican state of Puebla. The explosion and ensuing fires resulted in the deaths of 29 people and caused injuries to a further 52 in addition to prompting the evacuation of approximately 5000 people. The pipeline was shut down by Pemex and the fire brought under control by mid-day, but 115 homes were damaged and 32 completely destroyed. The explosion resulted from the ignition of the fuel released from the pipeline, with the leak believed to be due to attempts by the “Los Zetas” criminal gang to siphon off fuel from the pipeline. Pemex reported that it detected a sudden drop in pressure, followed by fires in two ducts. Investigators found a hole in the pipeline together with equipment to extract crude oil. Indications were that the gang lost control due to the high pressure at which the fuel exited the pipe, causing fuel to leak and flow more than half a mile down a city street and eventually into the Atoyac River. Whilst unquantified, concerns were also raised about the environmental implications resulting from the pollution of the Atoyac River and subsequent downstream reservoirs. Following repairs, the pipeline was reopened on 22nd December 2010.

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