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Title: Bakken Crude Unit Trains"an imminent hazard" - Home
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Description:Bakken Crude Unit Trains"an imminent hazard" - Home DQW4E567 DS /'[;P-O0I9JU8HFGYDTRSAEWQSDFGHJKL;' 4 ';LMNKBVCXZ Bakken Crude Unit Trains "an imminent hazard" Home About Contact ? Bakken crude "An im
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Bakken Crude Unit Trains"an imminent hazard" - Home DQW4E567 DS /'[;P-O0I9JU8HFGYDTRSAEWQSDFGHJKL;' 4 ';LMNKBVCXZ Bakken Crude Unit Trains "an imminent hazard" Home About Contact ? Bakken crude "An imminent hazard" US DOT Summary: Fire suppression in the derailment of crude oil unit trains is a problem that is largely ignored. Hundreds of mile-long trains cross the country each day carrying highly flammable and even explosive, crude oil from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. These trains are an “imminent hazard” to the communities through which the trains pass but neither the railroads, oil producers or refineries have made any provision for fire suppression along these routes although the technology exists today and the costs of a minor fire in a populated area can be huge. It is strongly urged that each unit train carry sufficient fire suppression equipment, foam and water to allow local fire departments to prevent or suppress fires and explosions in crude oil leaks for a minimum of two hours. This window of time would allow for evacuation and arrival of mutual aid resources. Costs of equipping unit trains with such equipment and supplies are reviewed and found to be minuscule based on cost-benefit measures related to the value of the cargo, the value of the rolling stock and the potential damage to people and structures along the route The National Situation The Bakken Oil Field, named after the farmer on whose land the first big strike was made, is a huge rock formation covering a large part of North Dakota and parts of Montana, southern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba.(1) Starting in 2010, an oil boom, based on “fracking” of the Bakken field began to yield significant amounts of light, “sweet” (low sulfur) crude oil. The crude oil from North Dakota, as good as it is, must still be refined. Most of the nation’s refineries are along the Pacific coast in California, the Gulf coast in Texas and Louisiana and the Atlantic coast in Canada, and several eastern states. Because of little need for pipelines from North Dakota to these areas in the past, the few pipelines already constructed are operating at capacity. The obvious alternative is to ship to the refineries by rail, which the railroads are quite happy to do.(2) All of this would be fine—as a result of the oil boom, North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate of any state, it produces more crude oil than any state except Texas, and it is going a long way to giving us energy equality—we’re producing as much as we are using. This site is not about or against "fracking" per se, nor is it "anti" railroad. But it does raise a concern that only the railroads can really address. That concern is that the crude oil being shipped by rail constitutes a serious threat, or as the USDOT puts it an "imminent hazard" to all of the communities through which the oil trains travel. According to the Association of American Railroads, as quoted by Reuters, 113,089 carloads of crude were shipped in the first quarter of 2015.(3) This amounts to about twelve 103 car unit trains a day crossing America. While the railroads have an excellent safety record, unfortunately, derailments occur. In March, of 2015, the Chicago Tribune reported that four derailments had occurred in the previous 30 days.(4) Fortunately many derailments to date have occurred in sparsely populated areas so people near the right-of-way were safely evacuated. However, in July of 2013 a crude oil train derailed in Lak Mégantic, Ontario. The death toll reached 47 with many, many more injured and all but 3 buildings in the town destroyed by the huge fireball that resulted or petroleum contamination.(5) Lynchburg, Va. 14 crude oil cars derail and explode. Courtesy of thinkprogress.org. There are many causes of derailment (not all examples involve crude oil trains). Collision: 1/1/14 Grain car derails, hits crude oil train, causes it to derail Human error: 7/8/13 Lak Mégantic, Ontario, train brake not set Wind: 5/16/15 Trains derailed by wind Equipment failure: 5/15/15, Galena, IL defective wheel suspected in derailment Excessive speed: May, 2015 , Philadelphia, Pa. Amtrak train derails at 106 mph Defective rails/roadbed, April, 2015, Lynchburg, Va.14 cars derail, burn, pollute river after rail bed washed out.The federal government has called for new rules governing crude oil rail cars. Slower speeds, better inspection and improved equipment are all well and good but the cars on the train that derailed and burned in Galena, Illinois in March were the newest 1232 model cars traveling at only 23 miles an hour. Nonetheless, 21 cars derailed, leaked, ignited and burned for days.(6) That they burned for days brings up an important topic: fire suppression. While emergency responders across the country are being trained to deal with potential rail car fires, their only recourse at this point is—evacuation. They are not equipped to prevent or suppress fires of Bakken crude source. New model 1232 cars passing through Western Springs, Illinois: April, 2015. Courtesy of K. Ironside The Local Problem Again, according to the Tribune, during the week of March 5, 2015 alone there were four derailments of trains carrying crude oil. The focus of the article was a derailment in Galena, Illinois involving 10 cars on a train traveling less than 25 miles an hour which did not collide but derailed and ignited. To make the story worse, the cars were the new model cars designed to be more impact resistant and less prone to flammability.(7) There are eight grade crossings on the BNSF in the two villages of Western Springs and La Grange where a collision could trigger an explosion. Neither of these two villages, nor any of the fire departments west of Chicago to Aurora have any real resources to fight an oil conflagration which must be fought with foam, not water.(8) The map below, based on US DOT data shows the general area of La Grange, La Grange Park and Western Springs that would be immediately affected by first, a derailment (red) and a fire (yellow). Fire Zone Blast Area Map showing risk assessment of blast area of explosion and fire involving trains with crude oil cargo. La Grange - Western Springs area circled in blue. Courtesy of ForestEthics: Blast-Zone.org Key: Responsibility for Fire Prevention and Suppression It seems clear that it's in the best interest of the BNSF to make provision for fire prevention, suppression and control of any train accident, not just individual communities that might be affected, anymore than the Gulf Coast communities should have been responsible for prevention and clean-up of the BP oil spill. It’s not reasonable that the communities should have to use tax dollars to protect themselves from a threat introduced by the BNSF. After all, the shippers, refiners and the railroad are the ones benefiting financially, not the villages. One suggestion for fire suppression that should have high priority is to have the BNSF provide foam firefighting equipme...

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