Opal

Rachel Anderson

In 2014, a massive explosion tore through the Williams natural gas processing plant in Opal. It forced the evacuation of the southwestern Wyoming town and caused a spike in the price of natural gas.

Wyoming’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted an investigation in the aftermath and found a number of safety violations. But the agency never collected the corresponding fines and never released a final report about the investigation.

The Lincoln County coroner has determined that head trauma caused a worker's death at a natural gas processing plant in southwestern Wyoming last week. 

County Corner Michael Richins says 36-year-old Michael Smuin was thrown into a cement structure at the Williams plant in Opal and died instantly from a cranial fracture. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating the incident, including what caused Smuin to be lifted off his feet. Richins found burns on the body, that he said were likely caused by a ruptured pipe.  

Williams has identified the worker killed at the company's southwest Wyoming plant Wednesday as 36-year-old Michael Smuin of Kemmerer. The company says he was an operations technician at the Opal natural gas processing plant and had been with the company eight years.

The circumstances surrounding Smuin's death are still unclear. On Thursday, the Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration said a burst pipe may have been involved. A spokeswoman for the agency says a worker on-scene also reported seeing a cloud of natural gas.

The Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration says a burst pipe may have been involved in the death of a worker at the Williams natural gas processing plant in southwest Wyoming Wednesday. A spokeswoman for the agency says a worker on-scene also reported seeing a cloud of natural gas.

 

The as-yet unidentified 36-year-old man’s death is under investigation by the state and the company.

 

Rachel Anderson

The Williams company is working to get its natural gas processing plant in Opal back up and running after an explosion and fire shut it down last week. The fire burned for five days, finally running out of fuel on Monday afternoon. In a press release, the company said it believes only one of the plant’s four units was damaged in the accident. Two of the units were back online Thursday morning.

A small fire continues to burn at a western Wyoming natural gas processing plant idled by an explosion since last week.

Rachel Anderson

UPDATE 04/24 12:45pm: The evacuation order has been lifted, residents are being allowed to return to their homes. 

Original story:

An evacuation order remains in effect for residents of Opal after an explosion at a nearby natural gas processing plant Wednesday night.

A town in southwest Wyoming has been evacuated after an explosion at a nearby natural gas processing plant. The explosion at the Williams plant near Opal happened around 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. Lincoln County Emergency Management spokesman Stephen Malik said that as of 4 p.m. there was still an ongoing fire, but that gas has been shut off to the facility. In addition to the evacuation of Opal's hundred residents, highways 30 and 284 between Opal and Kemmerer have been shut down.