World News

Austria Gas Explosion Leaves One Dead and 18 Injured

Posted December 12, 2017 11:14 a.m. EST
Updated December 12, 2017 11:50 a.m. EST

An enormous explosion rocked a major natural gas hub in Austria on Tuesday, killing an employee, injuring at least 18 people and raising concerns about tightening supplies across Europe.

Firefighters and emergency workers rushed to the natural gas hub in Baumgarten, about 45 miles south of Vienna, after the blast occurred just before 9 a.m., ordering an evacuation of the site. The fire was brought under control within hours, state police in Lower Austria said.

Johanna Mikl-Leitner, the governor of Lower Austria, which includes Baumgarten, ordered local authorities to investigate the cause of the explosion. Gas Connect Austria, which operates the facility, said the cause appeared to be technical.

The Baumgarten station, Austria’s largest entry point for natural gas, receives the product from Russia and Norway for inspection and compression, and then sends it to Austrian and other pipelines. Baumgarten operations were suspended after the explosion.

Natural gas flows to Austria remain secure, Gas Connect Austria said after the blast, but the company warned that flows to other countries could be disrupted.

“The biggest implications are for the Italian market,” said Trevor Sikorski, who leads natural gas research at Energy Aspects in London.

While Italy has large amounts of gas in storage, he said, a prolonged outage would reduce stocks and set the stage for higher prices this winter.

As is customary in such cases, the Italian Ministry of Economic Development declared a state of emergency Tuesday to guarantee gas supplies, adding that it was monitoring the situation.

“The supply of gas to Italian consumers is assured because the shortage is covered by a greater supply of gas from the national underground gas reserves,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Italian energy company Eni said in a statement Tuesday that the Baumgarten gas hub provided 30 percent of Italian gas. The state of emergency seeks to facilitate gas imports, particularly from northern Europe, Libya and Algeria.

Natural gas prices were volatile Tuesday, rising about 6 percent on the TTF hub in the Netherlands.