February 18, 2015

After Fiery West Virginia Train Derailment, Is Oil By Rail Safe?

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February 17th, 2015 | Christian Science Monitor | Jared Gilmour

This week’s derailment and explosion of train cars in West Virginia continues to raise questions about the safety of transporting crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region. The Christian Science Monitor says about 25 of the train’s 109 cars derailed, each filled with up to 30,000 gallons of oil:

“All told, shipments of crude by rail in the US have increased 400 percent since 2005, prompting many to call for updated safety standards in the industry. The increasing prevalence of oil-related blasts and derailments is one byproduct of a shale oil boom that has boosted US crude production and pushed down the price of oil around the world.”

-CSM Reporter Jared Gilmour

The growing list of crashes includes a devastating 2013 incident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Inside Energy’s Emily Guerin also recently reported on the one-year anniversary of a similar crash in Casselton, North Dakota.

The Obama Administration and the US Department of Transportation are finalizing new rules requiring safer train cars and lower speeds. But, CSX, the firm operating the West Virginia train, said the cars involved in the crash are the new ones which would be required under the upcoming federal guidelines.

Crude from the Bakken, considered more volatile, will continue to crowd the railways leading to the nation’s refineries. That is, unless pipeline infrastructure in the area improves.

But, of course, oil pipelines bring their own controversy.