Abstract

On 19 August 2000 two seismometer networks in southeastern New Mexico recorded signals from a natural gas pipeline explosion. Analysis of the particle motion, arrival times, and durations of the seismic signals indicates that three impulsive events occurred with origin times of 11:26:18.8 ± 1.9, 11:26:43.6 ± 2.1, and 11:27:01.7 ± 2.0 (UCT). The first event was caused by the explosive blowout of the buried, high-pressure pipeline, and the second event was caused by the ignition of the vented natural gas. The nature of the third event is unclear; however, it was likely created by a secondary ignition. There were also two extended seismic events that originated at the same time as the first two impulsive events. The first resulted from the preignition venting of the gas and lasted for about 24 sec, while the second resulted from the postignition roaring of the flames and lasted for about 1 hr. Many of the source constraints provided by the seismic data were not available from any other investigative technique and thus were valuable to a diverse range of parties including the New Mexico state police, law firms involved in litigation related to the accident, the National Transportation and Safety Board, and the general public.

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