Panel to mull well site death

State oil and gas regulators will be asked today to find Axia Energy in violation of their rules for the company’s operations of a wastewater pit at the site of a fatal accident outside Craig in January.

Meanwhile, Denver-based Axia and a second company, Herod Industries of Craig, agreed to pay a total of $16,800 in fines under settlements with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in connection with the incident. Also, OSHA is proposing a $3,080 fine against Herod in connection with a non-injury explosion in July at its building in Craig.

Jon Herod, 49, an employee of Herod Industries, died Jan. 3 when a 300-barrel storage tank exploded at an Axia oil and gas development site north of Craig. The explosion occurred when workers used a propane torch to thaw valves while trying to transfer wastewater from a hydraulic fracturing operation.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is scheduled today to decide whether Axia violated several of the agency’s rules in its pit operations.

Agency staff had inspected the pit and an associated well in December 2012 and conducted another inspection after the explosion and fire. While the fire burned pit liners down to the fluid line, the commission said in a notice of alleged violation that Axia indicated the upper liner might have been compromised a few weeks earlier. Axia and commission staff have differed on whether a hose was placed on the liner in violation of a condition of approval, causing the liner breach, and whether the pit had been properly fenced to protect wildlife.

Axia paid $5,600 in fines for safety violations in the incident. OSHA determined it exposed workers to danger by failing to make sure the 300-barrel tank being used to transfer wastewater was marked to indicate it contained flammable liquids and/or gases. Also, a required workplace Material Safety Data Sheet for such liquids and gases wasn’t posted.

Under an agreement between OSHA and Herod, Herod is paying $11,200 for four violations, one deemed serious. OSHA says the violations involved things including failing to mark the tank and a portable vacuum truck tank to indicate the presence of flammable substances, the lack of a required MSDS posting, a failure in training, and failure to control open flame and ignition sources — in this case, the use of a torch.

OSHA also is proposing to fine Herod for two serious safety violations OSHA alleged following an investigation begun July 5, two days after an explosion blew a hole in the company’s roof in Craig. The Craig Daily Press reported the explosion occurred during welding involving an empty tanker truck and no one was injured. OSHA says Herod failed to ensure the tanker was adequately cleaned and vented before doing the welding.


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