Lightning and Resulting Fire Launch Aboveground Storage Tank into Air

In Greeley, Colorado, lightning struck an aboveground storage tank used for waste water in a hydraulic fracking operation, causing quite a reaction.  After the lightning struck around 1 pm, several explosions were heard and a fire broke out.  According to an AP report posted by the Weather Channel, one of the aboveground storage tanks was launched into the air by the force of an explosion.  (See AP Photo)

The liquid storage tanks at the site contain the waste water from the fracking process.  After the water mix is injected into the fracking well site, the waste water is recovered and placed into aboveground steel storage tanks.  The process of going through the well site results in waste water that contains some oil and gas.  This combination of oil and gas in the water in addition to any vapor from the mix is likely why the explosions and resulting fire were so powerful.

Due to the flammable contents of the tanks, the flames and potential for additional explosions were too dangerous for firefighters to immediately address.  After the blaze settled down, the local firefighters used fire suppression foam on the area to fully extinguish the fire.  Luckily the site is in an open field away from residential areas, so only three houses were evacuated and no damage to homes occurred.

Preventing Contamination

The next step for crews at the fracking site is to limit any contamination from the release of the waste water.  It is unclear from the AP article as to whether the tanks used any form of secondary containment.  According to CBS Denver channel 4, crews built a dam, attempting to contain the runoff from the fire and prevent the contaminated water reaching nearby farms and irrigation ditches.

Crews said that it was too early to know how much of the fracking waste water seeped into the ground or if it spread to local farms or irrigation ditches.  The area will likely be evaluated for contamination and a cleanup plan will be created to address any environmental impact.

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