MarkWest sues over Avella area fire, seeks $1.1 million

February 4, 2013
The scene of a fire at a compressor station in Independence Township in October 2011. - Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Marcellus Shale natural gas processor and distributor MarkWest filed a $1.1 million product liability suit Monday in Washington County Court over a fire more than a year ago at its facility near Avella in Independence Township.

Plaintiffs are MarkWest Liberty Midstream and Resources LLC, a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business of 800 Western Ave., Houston, and MarkWest Energy Partners LP of Denver, Colo.

Named as the defendant in the suit is Enerflex Energy Systems Inc. of Houston, Texas, which designs, sells and supplies three-stage gas compressor packages. Enerflex has offices in Waynesburg, Greene County, and Mars, Butler County.

Specifically, MarkWest is seeking $1,160,277, plus court costs and “related business damages” because of the fire that broke out Oct. 13, 2011, at the drying and compressing station, resulting in, according to the suit, “extensive damage to the compressor package engine, accessories, piping and three-stage discharge bottle.”

MarkWest claims the blaze spread beyond the compressor package to the building housing it, and said in the suit the fire was caused by a crack in a threaded nipple that was attached to a pressure-relief valve.

“The use of components on the three-stage gas compressor package was defective in design, manufacture, fabrication and assembly when it left Enerflex’s control,” the suit said, claiming it had only half the capacity it should have had to withstand gas pressure, vibrations and other stresses.

The natural gas midstream firm also claimed Enerflex was negligent because the nipple was improperly installed, tested and commissioned in that it was overly tightened, failing to comply with codes and standards.

Enerflex did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on the suit Monday afternoon.

News reports at the time said firefighters from West Middletown, Avella, Mt. Pleasant and Canton townships, plus Franklin, W.Va., responded to the compressor units on the John Dryer farm.

No injuries were reported.

A state police fire marshal estimated the blaze did $450,000 in damage to a one-story steel structure that was valued at $4.5 million.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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