Blasts raise questions about pipeline safety

Apr 8, 2013

Questions are being raised about the role of emergency shutoff valves in preventing natural gas explosions like the recent one at a Kansas City restaurant.

Regulations require their installation, but not their use in emergencies. Instead of shutting valves before a February blast leveled JJ's restaurant and killed a server, crews waited for a backhoe to arrive in a failed attempt to vent the leak.

One experts likened shutoff valves to the brakes on a car.

But utility and gas industry representatives say crews can plug leaks effectively without them. The downside to using the valves is their closure stops gas service to potentially hundreds of customers. Service then has to be restored by utility employees going around and relighting pilot lights.