By Angela Greiling Keane and Mark Drajem
Crude oil produced in North America’s booming Bakken region may be more flammable and therefore more dangerous to ship by rail than crude from other areas, a U.S. regulator said after studying the question for four months.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration announced its preliminary conclusion today, three days after a BNSF Railway Co. train carrying oil caught fire after a collision in Casselton, North Dakota.
The North Dakota accident is the fourth major North American derailment in six months by trains transporting crude. Record volumes of oil are moving by rail as production from North Dakota and Texas pushes U.S. output to the most since 1988 and pipeline capacity has failed to keep up.
The regulator “is reinforcing the requirement to properly test, characterize, classify, and where appropriate sufficiently degasify hazardous materials prior to and during transportation,” according to a safety alert posted on its website today.
The agency’s findings may expedite the rail industry’s push for stronger tank cars for moving crude and other hazardous materials. It strengthens calls for the petroleum industry to accurately label tank-car contents and test shipments to make sure they don’t contain gases from the lighter oil produced in the shale rock in North Dakota. MORE