Crack and explosion show risks of Europe's aging energy networks

A crack was discovered on the Forties Pipeline System in Scotland, while an explosion cost one fatality and injured at least 18 people at a gas plant in Austria. Repairs and concerns about dangerous incidents will only become more common in Europe's oil and gas infrastructure.

Just before 9 am Tuesday, the gray skies over the far eastern reaches of Austria lit up with an explosion at a natural gas switching station, killing one worker, injuring almost two dozen others – and sending shockwaves through Europe's energy supply infrastructure. 

The blast in Baumgarten, a village about a mile from the border with Slovakia, generated a fireball so hot that it melted the plastic on cars parked half a kilometer away. With about 10 percent of Europe's gas needs passing through the station, the wholesale price of the fuel spiked by 23 percent, to its highest level in four years, as cold weather settled over much of the Continent.

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