Science & Technology

Go read the harrowing story of the world’s first CO2 pipeline explosion

Final 12 months, a pipeline carrying compressed carbon dioxide blended with hydrogen sulfide ruptured, engulfing the small city of Satartia, Mississippi, in a inexperienced haze, leaving many residents convulsing, confused, or unconscious. That explosion serves as a vivid warning about the dangers posed by what may very well be the subsequent era of pipelines to crisscross the US, in a brand new investigation by HuffPost and the Climate Investigations Center.

“It was virtually like one thing you’d see in a zombie film,” Sheriff’s Officer Terry Gann tells journalist Dan Zegart about what occurred that night time. Zegart items collectively the occasions of February 2020 by means of harrowing 911 calls and the voices of members of the family racing to succeed in others earlier than the poisonous haze may overcome them.

The story is a scathing investigation of the firm, Denbury, that operates the pipeline, which did little to nothing to warn native officers and residents about the hazard they confronted, based on Zegart’s reporting. It’s additionally most likely the closest factor to a PSA on the dangers different communities may face if proposals to construct out tens of 1000’s of miles of CO2 pipelines come to fruition.

CO2 is the most high-profile greenhouse gasoline driving the world local weather disaster. To maintain CO2 from doing its harm in the environment, some lawmakers and massive inexperienced teams are pushing for brand new know-how to seize carbon dioxide from the air or from smokestack emissions. That captured carbon dioxide would in the end should be transported to locations the place it may be saved underground. It’s an concept that’s gained a lot steam not too long ago that the bipartisan infrastructure bundle making its manner by means of Congress includes billions of dollars to develop the technology and the network of pipelines that may include it.

Fossil gas firms are additionally huge backers of carbon seize applied sciences, promoting it as a manner for them to scrub up their emissions whereas nonetheless promoting oil and gasoline merchandise liable for local weather change. They already transfer and use concentrated CO2 in a course of referred to as enhanced oil restoration: they shoot CO2 into the floor to assist them extract extra from their wells. The Denbury pipeline that exploded was transporting CO2 for that objective.

Regardless of the rising assist for carbon seize, there’s not so much of data on the market for the public about what this proposed new infrastructure may imply for communities like Satartia. None of the residents Zegart spoke to had heard about plans to construct extra CO2 pipelines throughout the nation — at the same time as officials eye the Gulf area as a possible hub for carbon seize in the US.

CO2 may sound innocent — it’s in the air we breathe, in any case — however at excessive concentrations, it’s an asphyxiant. Do you know that CO2 accidents kill round 100 staff globally every year? I didn’t, and I report on this sort of stuff for a residing. What occurred in Satartia is the world’s first recognized instance of mass out of doors publicity to piped CO2, based on the World Well being Group’s Local weather Change and Environmental Determinants of Well being Unit. It won’t be its final.

To be taught extra, read Zegart’s reporting in HuffPost and maintain on, this story is a nail-biter.

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