Thursday, May 1, 2014

Why Bakken Oil Explodes

The perils of a particular petroleum, explained. 
In early January, a federal agency alert made clear what many already knew: that crude oil from the Bakken formation is more prone to explosion than other types of crude oil. The warning came after tank cars carrying Bakken oil exploded in three separate railroad accidents in Alabama, North Dakota, and Quebec. It’s a worrisome finding for the hundreds of communities that host loaded oil trains every week.
Let’s take a closer look at some particular issues with Bakken oil.

What’s different about Bakken oil?

Bakken oil is a type of “light sweet crude,” a relatively high quality oil that is easier to refine into commercial products, but also easier to ignite. A few decades ago, light-sweet crude was the dominant oil type in the US. Light oil is by no means new to the industry, but the recent boom in oil extraction in the Bakken and similar deposits elsewhere does represent a new and unexpected development for the industry.
What’s more, the large-scale rail transport of crude oil is a very recent phenomenon. From 2009 to 2012, for example, oil-by-rail shipments grew from fewer than 11,000 railcars nationally to well over 230,000. That astronomical growth has continued in 2013 and early 2014. MORE

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