Explosion injures Springfield City Utilities employee, damages plant

Published: Feb. 16, 2022 at 5:53 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2022 at 5:32 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - An explosion at the John Twitty Energy Center in southwest Springfield on Wednesday that injured one employee was caused by the ignition of coal dust outside a boiler.

Springfield City Utilities President/CEO Gary Gibson provided that update on Thursday at a media event where CU was talking about a planned implosion event at the James River Power Station on Saturday where four smokestacks at the decommissioned plant will be demolished.

Gibson said the employee at the Wednesday incident at the southwest plant was hit by falling debris and suffered only minor injuries. He was taken to the hospital and released Wednesday evening.

There was damage to the facility but Gibson said both units never went off-line and are still up-and-running.

“We have teams doing an analysis of what the cause of the incident was and what we can do to prevent something like that from happening again,” Gibson said. “The ignition occurred on what we call the tripper floor in Unit 1. There was damage to the roof of that particular section of the plant and to some of the metal siding on the walls. As the coal combusted and the pressure raised the roof a little bit it knocked some of the siding off the top part of the building. It does not appear there is any structural damage and we already have crews out there looking at the roof to re-enclose that part of the plant.”

Gibson said the last similar incident was December 2016 at Unit 2 and that there had been quite a few improvements made including installation of dust collection systems.

“Different types of coal have different characteristics,” Gibson explained. “We use a real high-quality Powder River Basin coal from Wyoming because of the good environmental impacts of that coal. It has a lot less profile from an emission standpoint. But it also is a little more volatile. We have quite a few procedures and quite a bit of equipment to make sure that the coal does not combust anywhere else but the boilers but you have to really keep an eye on it. And sometimes things like that can happen pretty quick.”

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