Sometimes you run into a dangerous situation, and you just do what your supposed to do and end up being called a hero. Here is how this happened to me.
In the spring of 1977, I was working as an process engineer for Phillips Petroleum Company’s Exploration and Production Group out of the Borger, Texas office. My boss and I were headed to Dumas Helium Plant to check on a project. We noticed some black smoke coming from the area where Phillips had an NGL (natural gas liquids) pipeline station pumping raw gasoline from out lying NGL plants to Borger Refinery. We called the field headquarters on the radio and let them know. When we got there, we could see an operating pump was on fire and raw gasoline was spewing from the pump seal area with fire flames rising eight feet into the air. We weren’t sure how long the pump had been on fire, but we knew that if the pump casing got hot enough to fail, the wrath of hell would be released. The NGL pipeline had a pressure of 500 pounds per square inch, and a pipeline full of volatile raw gasoline would be released to the fire zone instantly should the pump fail. This would have resulted in an extremely large explosion and a ball of fire of tremendous volume. The station operator arrived a minute after we did with tools. He grabbed a wrench and I grabbed a wrench and we ran to the pump. He shut the pump down and blocked in the discharge valve while I blocked in the suction valve. We then ran like hell to get out of there. With the sources of fuel and pressure shutoff, the pump depressured in about ten minutes and the fire subsided.
The Operations Superintendent called me into his office the next morning and said “You know you’re a hero don’t you. You all saved a two million dollar pump station, prevented shutting down all our NGL plants upstream of the station for an extended period of time, and perhaps saved untold property damage and human injury.” I said thank you sir, perhaps now you can approve some of our pending projects. I still cringe when I think about what would have happened if that pump casing would have failed while we were in the area.
The Suction Valve is closed, run like hell!
Thanks for reading The Hero,
Hawg Jaw Bill