Brine explosion mystery revealed

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A GAS storage company has revealed the cause of a mystery brine well explosion.

Halite Energy says the incident, in which tonnes of salty mud spewed on to a farmer’s field in Preesall, was most likely a result of mechanical failure caused by the age of the wells, built in the 1900s.

It said “a breach of the inner pipe due to old corrosion” caused air and brine to be released under pressure and not unstable geology – as suggested by local residents.

But Halite bosses still believe sabotage had a part to play and have now claimed a further eight well heads were tampered with.

Chief executive Keith Budinger said: “Safety and security are paramount to Halite.

“The evidence of tool markings alongside the fact eight wellheads had been tampered with left us with no choice but to report the matter to authorities.”

The report into the incident, released this week, states the outer casing of the well head had become detached by unknown means.

This allowed the pressurised air/brine to travel back down the outer casing, find a gap and exit to surface causing thousands of pounds worth of damage to the grazing field and local wildlife.

Despite a police probe finding no sufficient evidence to support sabotage claims, Halite bosses say security will remain on site.

Mr Budinger said: “Rangers currently conduct checks throughout the site and check all wellheads identified as being at risk five times a day.

“The cost of security now exceeds £200,000 per year.”

Halite came under fire after the incident for refusing to make public the detailed evidence it passed on to the police.

Mr Budinger today said he had been unable to release information regarding tool marks on the well head until investigations were complete.

He said: “While we appreciate some members of the local community have been unhappy the evidence of potential tampering has not been publicly disclosed.

“The relevant authorities had requested this evidence not be shared with them while their investigations were ongoing in order to ensure their inquiries were not compromised.

“We are fully aware of the concern and uncertainty this has created in some areas but we hope people will realise this is a very serious issue.”

June Jackson, of Protect Wyre, said the group would not comment on the report until they had seen all documentation.

She said; “We have seen Halite’s report which refers to documents we haven’t yet seen.

“Once we have been sent all the relevant information we will respond to their findings.”

The next meeting of Stalmine Parish Council, where the scheme will be discussed, will be held on Monday April 16.