PHMSA Issues Warning About Bakken Crude Oil After Explosions
January 13, 2014
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has issued a safety alert to the public, emergency responders, and shippers about the potential high volatility of the crude oil being shipped from the Bakken oil shale patch in Montana and North Dakota.
Three recent incidents put the Bakken shale oil in the spotlight. On December 30, a train carrying oil derailed and exploded in North Dakota, prompting the evacuation of a nearby town. In November, another train carrying Bakken oil also derailed and exploded in Alabama, releasing over 749,000 gallons of oil. In July, a train carrying the same kind of crude oil derailed and exploded in Quebec, killing 47 people.
Just days before the most recent accident, a regional newspaper published an article quoting two North Dakota fire chiefs as being concerned about the possibility of such a violent accident in their communities. As the production in the region increases, so does rail traffic across the country as the raw crude is transported to refineries. This should be a concern for any community having commercial rail traffic nearby.
Studies are ongoing and preliminary results should be released soon, but due to the possibility of Bakken crude being more unpredictable and volatile, extreme caution should be used in regions where this type of crude is being transported.
Transportation of oil by rail has increased due to changes in technology and an increase in shale production. The Association of American Railroads has information on its web site that can be of assistance, including a map of freight rail in the country, freight rail industry snapshots by state (listing products being moved), and a list of rail company representatives by state.