crude oil

Tue, 2014-03-18 06:00Sharon Kelly
Sharon Kelly's picture

A Record Year of Oil Train Accidents Leaves Insurers Wary

Spurred by the shale drilling rush that has progressed at breakneck speed, the railroad industry has moved fast to help drillers transport petroleum and its byproducts to consumers. Last year, trains hauled over 400,000 carloads of crude oil, up from just 9,500 carloads in 2008, according to railroad industry estimates.  Each carload represents roughly 30,000 gallons of flammable liquids, and some trains haul over 100 oil cars at a time.

But with this fast expansion has come some astounding risks — risks that have insurance companies and underwriters increasingly concerned.

A string of oil train explosions have highlighted the potential for harm. A train hauling 2.9 million gallons of Bakken oil derailed and exploded on November 8 in Aliceville, Alabama, and the oil that leaked but did not burn continues to foul the wetlands in the area.

On December 30th, a train collision in Casselton, North Dakota 20 miles outside of Fargo, prompted a mass evacuation of over half the town’s residents after 18 cars exploded into fireballs visible for miles. 400,000 gallons of oil spilled after that accident, which involved two trains traveling well below local speed limits.

Those crashes are all on the radar of the insurance industry,” attorney Dean Hansell recently told Law360.

All told, railcar accidents spilled more than 1.15 million gallons of crude oil in 2013, federal data shows, compared with an average of just 22,000 gallons a year from 1975 through 2012 — a fifty-fold spike.

Tue, 2014-02-04 10:13Kai Nagata
Kai Nagata's picture

Is Keystone in the National Interest? Of Canada, That Is?

keystone xl

It's up to the U.S. President to decide whether the cross-border leg of the Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest of his country. Ultimately, his criteria are less scientific than political. Does he stand to lose more by alienating those who support or oppose the project?

With midterm elections coming up in November, Obama doesn't have time to worry about Canada's hurt feelings. Our economy, environment and opinion are very low on his list of priorities.

But the strongest pro-Keystone arguments on the American side raise an uncomfortable question: if the pipeline is approved, who benefits a little bit — and who benefits a lot? In other words, who gets the short end of the stick?

Wed, 2013-11-13 08:10Mike G
Mike G's picture

Oil Train Derailment, Explosion In Alabama Points To Need For Tighter Regulation

We’re all used to seeing oil spills at sea, or oil spewing from a ruptured pipeline. But lately we’ve been presented with a new image of oil spills with increasing frequency: train derailment.

Last Friday, a train carrying crude oil from the Bakken shale in North Dakota was traveling through a rural part of Alabama when 20 of its cars derailed and exploded. Firefighters left 11 of the cars to burn themselves out overnight. Flames were reportedly shooting 300 feet into the air.

The cause of the accident, as well as the extent of the oil spill into a surrounding wetlands area, can’t be determined until the fire stops burning, which officials say could take several days.

This was not the only train carrying crude oil that derailed in recent memory. It wasn’t even the only train derailment last week.

Tue, 2013-10-22 14:19Derek Leahy
Derek Leahy's picture

Pipeline Expert: Over 90% Probability of Line 9 Rupture with Tar Sands Dilbit

Dilbit rupture in Mayflower, Arkansas

The international pipeline safety expert who last August described Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline as “high risk for a rupture” now says the probability of Line 9 rupturing is “over 90%.”

I do not make the statement ‘high risk for a rupture’ lightly or often. There are serious problems with Line 9 that need to be addressed,” Richard Kuprewicz, a pipeline safety expert with over forty years of experience in the energy sector, said in an interview with DeSmog Canada.

Hundreds rallied in Toronto on the weekend to voice their opposition to Enbridge’s plans to ship Alberta tar sands bitumen from Sarnia to Montreal through the 37-year-old Line 9 pipeline.

Kuprewicz also expressed concerns about transporting diluted bitumen through Line 9 saying it will increase the growth rates of cracks on the pipeline. Line 9 lies in the most populated part of Canada and crosses the St. Lawrence River and major waterways flowing into Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. A Line 9 spill could pollute the drinking water of millions of Canadians.  

Wed, 2011-03-30 10:30Matthew Carroll
Matthew Carroll's picture

Controversial TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline Criticized By U.S. Farmers and Mayors

Map of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline route across America Farm Belt

A new policy adopted by the US National Farmers Union slams the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would pump bitumen from the Athabasca tar sands in Alberta thousands of miles across America’s farm belt to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas. The Nebraska Farmers Union notes:

“The proposed route of the 1,980-mile pipeline would slice through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. It would cross the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska - source of 30 percent of the nation’s agricultural water and drinking water for millions - with a pipeline carrying diluted bitumen, a thick, heavy, corrosive and toxic form of crude oil associated with pipeline ruptures at 16 times the rate of conventional crude.”

Thu, 2011-01-06 16:27Emma Pullman
Emma Pullman's picture

Breaking News: Fire Breaks Out At Tar Sands Site in Alberta

Thursday afternoon, fire broke out at the Horizon oilsands site near Fort McKay in northern Alberta.  Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., which owns the site, confirmed that the fire was set off by an explosion around 5:30 PM Eastern Time Thursday.

The fire itself started in an upgrader across from the plant where bitumen is converted into crude oil.  The 480-foot coker structure, which uses heat to convert bitumen into crude oil caught fire.  Individuals at the site claimed that the explosion caused flames and smoke to shoot hundreds of feet into the air. 

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