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Explosion at Wyoming natural gas plant leads to town's evacuation

Industrial DisastersDisasters and AccidentsEnergy Resources

An explosion and fire at a natural gas plant in southwestern Wyoming forced the evacuation of the nearby town of Opal, a plant spokeswoman said Wednesday. 

No injuries were immediately reported among the plant's 42 employees or anyone in Opal, about five miles away, which has a population of 98. Officials shut down neighboring highways after the mid-afternoon blast.

Williams Companies Inc. owns the facility, which takes raw gas, processes it and ships it off in a pipeline. It's among several energy companies with operations in the area, company spokeswoman Michele Swaner told the Los Angeles Times.

The explosion is believed to have occurred at a trans-turboexpander, a machine that helps separate the components of natural gas, she said.

"When that happened, we made sure our employees were evacuated," Swaner said. "The town was evacuated as a precaution, and the town and employees are safe."

As crews were working to put out the flames, she said, the company was making arrangements to put people in hotels in case they could not go home Wednesday night.

The fire was the the first at the Opal-area plant, she said.

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