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UPDATE 5-Gas explosion in rural Kentucky kills one, ignites homes

Alex Dobuzinskis

(Adds more on the amount of gas flowing through pipe and the customers buying that fuel)

Aug 1 (Reuters) - A gas line explosion early on Thursday in a residential community in rural Kentucky sent up a ball of flame that could be seen for miles, killing one person and setting several houses on fire, a local sheriff said.

The explosion, in Moreland, a community about 40 miles (65 km) south of Lexington, shut a natural gas pipeline operated by Canadian energy firm Enbridge Inc, the company said in a statement.

A woman killed in the explosion was found outside her home, Lincoln County Sheriff Curt Folger said. Local media said at least five others were injured.

"We're trying to get a head count," Folger added.

About five homes caught fire and firefighters worked to extinguish those blazes, Folger said.

Flames from the blast rose about 300 feet (100 meters) in the air, Lexington television station WKYT reported, citing emergency managers. The WKYT meteorologist said the fire showed up on radar, according to the station.

"It woke us up and it was just a big roar and it was fire going up into the sky as far as you could see," area resident Sue Routin told Lexington television station Lex 18.

The pipeline was 30 inches (76 cm) in diameter, Folger said, and was shut off after the blast.

The pipeline is part of Enbridge's Texas Eastern system, the company said. The system connects Texas and the U.S. Gulf Coast with states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, according to the company's website.

The blast cut the amount of gas flowing on the pipe south of Enbridge's Danville compressor station in Kentucky to zero. Prior to the explosion about 1.7 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) of gas were moving south through the area from the Marcellus and Utica shale in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia toward the Gulf Coast, according to pipeline flow data from Refinitiv.

That represents about 2% of the 90 bcfd of gas currently being produced in the Lower 48 U.S. states. One billion cubic feet is enough to supply about five million U.S. homes.

The gas was supplying utilities along the pipe route and other consumers, including industrial facilities and liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals in the Gulf Coast.

Energy traders said the pipe shutdown would be disruptive to affected customers and would likely boost the gas costs, at least temporarily, but noted those consumers should have no problem switching to other fuel suppliers in the Gulf Coast or Northeast until Enbridge restores service.

Enbridge told customers it could not immediately estimate when the pipe would return to service.

"Our first concern is for those impacted by this incident and ensuring the safety of the community," Enbridge said in a statement, noting it had isolated the affected line and was working closely with emergency responders to manage the situation.

The explosion followed another fatal incident on Wednesday at an oil and gas site in Colorado, north of Denver.

In the Colorado incident, firefighters responding to a fire at an oil tank found an unresponsive man on top of the tank, at the site just outside the community of Windsor, said Windsor Severance Fire Rescue Chief Kris Kazian. The victim was later pronounced dead.

The site was operated by Denver-based firm Great Western Oil & Gas Co. A company representative could not be reached for comment. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, additional reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York, Keith Coffman in Denver and Arpan Varghese and Swati Verma in Bengaluru Editing by David Gregorio and Steve Orlofsky)