• Rich Barlow

    Senior Writer

    Rich Barlow

    Rich Barlow is a senior writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. Perhaps the only native of Trenton, N.J., who will volunteer his birthplace without police interrogation, he graduated from Dartmouth College, spent 20 years as a small-town newspaper reporter, and is a former Boston Globe religion columnist, book reviewer, and occasional op-ed contributor. Profile

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There are 12 comments on Recent Massachusetts Explosions Can Happen in Any Gas System

  1. The state is complicit in this. They were warned about their lack of qualified inspectors. They don’t inspect individual jobs, leaving that to the utility companies themselves! “Hey wolf! Watch my sheep, will ya?”

    1. are we sure who was doing these upgrades… contractors or the company?
      some of those systems run parallel and one not familiar with the multiple systems / pressures may have fed increased erroneous pressure to one of the low pressure system. whatever was the cause… just horrible outcome..prayers for the family of that young man and all those families put out by all this.

  2. Living in the Merrimack Valley, I am witnessing the hardship, inconvenience and stress this is causing people. Bread & Roses a soup kitchen in Lawrence which feed about 100 people a day in Lawrence is without gas and has to use grills outside to make its meals. Yet somehow they trudge on. I have also witnessed the generosity and kindness of people. This is a long term disaster – please continue to help!

  3. I’m wondering — with the advent of induction cooking and the new energy efficient heat pumps, why is there a need to pipe natural gas to new residential construction? Should the default be insulation, electric heat pumps, and electric induction stove tops, with natural gas only in unusual circumstances? In addition to the gas safety issues (low probability but high impact of a failure), the newer electric technologies are better for the climate, especially as we transition to renewables (wind, solar, etc.).

    1. I’ll echo that sentiment. Not only would that be a safe solution, but it would eliminate the disasterous green house effects of having unburnt methane leaking from gas networks.

  4. I am pretty confused about the article and the author’s proposed remedies. I have several decades of experience as a residential heat mechanic in the mid-Atlantic states. While i have long been aware that New England tends to use fuel oil for heating at a significantly higher rate than PA and MD, I am surprised that there is so little mention of natural gas as being used for heat. I know that if one were to shut off gas to 8600 customers here, that about half would have no or insufficient heat.
    I am also surprised about how heat pumps seem a good method of heating when the average temperature in the Boston area is below that where heat pumps are usable for heating. In homes with heat pumps in MD, there was almost always a natural gas backup with electric backups more common in PA. I don’t know why, but I never saw one oil heat backup.
    Finally, it appears that the accident in question was a rare and atypical one and caused by highly improper procedures, not by a lack of maintenance or general cost cutting. It happened while the company was in the process of doing the maintenance that was required. I do wonder why there were no individual residential pressure regulators outside each residence as I was used to; high pressure mains are stepped down to 15 lb or so for street lines and down to 1/2 lb outside each home at the meter.
    Many of those making comments appear to be quite flip in deciding for others what is best for them, regardless of costs. Fatal fires are sparked by electric about as often as by gas appliances, after all. And natural gas gives off less carbon per BTU than oil.

    1. Can anyone tell me why the pressure regulators at each meter at each residence did not prevent the over pressurization of the piping in each residence . There seems to be a lack or willingness to spend the money and upgrade safety features at each and every residence. How about a motorized valve with a pressure sensor at each house . Pressure goes up beyond set parameters and the valve closes shutting gas off automatically to the house also tripping an alarm which would be monitored by the utility . Installation, maintenance and monitoring of these safety shut off valves should all be done by the utility which provides the gas . God knows they have the money for this. The Government should be asking what safety device is there at each resisdence to prevent each and every house from over pressurization. Are we in the dark ages ?. Control valves are installed on many different heating and cooling systems in buildings all over the world . They monitor pressures temperatures etc. opening and closing accordingly. We have to ask why is this not the case at every household on the natural gas system………I will tell you why , the utility would say that the cost to install and monitor this type of safety valve would be astronomical…….and I would say nothing compared to a human life………shame on the utility , shame on the government , shame on all of us who Who do not stand up and require more safety features at every residence . The dark ages of engineering happening in 2018 at a neighborhood near you.

  5. Appliances, water heaters, gas logs , gas heaters, outdoor bbq’s, and the supply line into the house ….. ALL have pressure regulators. The gas meter on the side of the house has a gas regulator next to it( always my experience anyway). The house regulators take the street line pressure down to .25 PSI normally (regardless of street pressure). The appliance regulators reduce the pressure from the house gas line down to .14 to .18 psi (4 to 5 in WC) regardless of the input pressure. These regulators are rated to MUCH higher pressures on the order of 30 to 40 times the design pressure. What specifically exploded in the houses ? Even with a line pressure spike, the systems in a house to appliances are all regulated down to design pressures. Even if 75 PSI was introduced to the input of an appliance, result is not a leak or explosion. Clearly something happened but I’m curious what systems in the house failed to the point of explosion.

  6. The upside is that alternative forms of energy are being used and the situation forces the use of alternatives…
    We can then consider safer forms of energies…

    Gas needs to be fazed out …

    Sorry, we have learn things the hard way.

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