March 14, 2006 International Coal Group’s proposed lightning as the source of the energy for ignition at Sago. Potential paths for the electricity into the sealed area were listed including … “through the gas well casing and through the ground, or through the network of gas well lines on the surface and into the ground.” While this mechanism for ignition at Sago remains unconfirmed, this potential of this being the cause of this incident underlines the importance of having all oil and gas well casings and pipelines in the vicinity of coal mining operations located with a high degree of accuracy. Likewise, oil and gas exploration and transmission workers need to know when their activities may be impacted by surface or subsurface mining activities and its associated infrastructure. With the increasing national demand for energy, it is a certainty that buffering distances between these two industries’ field operations will diminish over time.
On February 1, 2006, a bulldozer operator was killed at the Elk Run Coal Co.'s in Drawdy, WV (Figure 2 below). The 58-year old bulldozer operator with 15 years experience was fatally injured due to an ignition of natural gas. As the bulldozer operator was developing a drill bench, the blade of the machine contacted and ruptured a 16-inch low-pressure, high-volume natural gas line which immediately burst into flames.
Figure 2: February 1, 2006 Boone County, WV a front-end loader operator was killed removing material above a coal seam when his loader bucket penetrated a buried 20” high pressure natural gas transmission line.
In the DESCRIPTION OF THE ACCIDENT section of about the fatal accident, the statement is made that “Vira told Moss to stay 100 feet away from the gas line. Neither Vira nor Moss knew the exact location of the gas line.” Clearly lack of knowledge of the precise location of the pipe line was the primary cause of this mining fatality.