Home / News / Bakken News / Oil industry must join U.S. railroads to boost train safety

Oil industry must join U.S. railroads to boost train safety

WASHINGTON – Rail operators are going to great lengths to prevent oil train derailments but the energy sector must do more to prevent accidents from becoming fiery disasters, the leading U.S. rail regulator said on Friday.

Oil train tankers have jumped the tracks in a string of mishaps in recent months that resulted in explosions and fires.

Several of those shipments originated from North Dakota’s Bakken energy fields. Officials have warned that fuel from the region is particularly light and volatile.

Sarah Feinberg, acting head of the Federal Railroad Administration, said the energy industry must do more to control the volatility of its cargo.

“(We) are running out of things that we can put on the railroads to do,” she said. “There have to be other industries that have skin in the game.”

A national safety plan for oil trains, due to be finalized in May, would require trains to have toughened tankers, advanced braking and other safety improvements.

The plan, however, would do nothing to mute the dangers of the fuel itself.

As officials try to prevent mishaps, they will also highlight the energy companies that supplied crude oil involved in accidents, Feinberg said.

Related: Lawmakers point to accidents to make case for rail upgrades

Officials want to identify publicly “the owner of the product when we talk about these derailments,” she said.

The American Petroleum Institute said it hoped to work with the rail industry and other stakeholders to prevent mishap.

“Our safety goal, along with the railroads, is zero incidents,” said Brian Straessle, a spokesman for the trade group.

While U.S. officials have warned for more than 12 months that Bakken fuel can be volatile, the verdict is mixed on whether that contributes to the intensity of accidents.

In September, the FRA determined that Bakken crude oil may be no more explosion-prone than other fuels carried by rail.

Ethanol, a corn-based gasoline additive, “poses a similar, if not greater, risk as (Bakken) crude oil when released from a tank car failing catastrophically and resulting in a large fireball type fire,” according to a study from the agency.

On Friday, the FRA said that about 6,000 tankers had a top valve that allowed small amounts of oil to escape. The agency said it ordered the fitting to be replaced and said it would work with industry to identify and replace defective parts more quickly.

That defect was not believed to have played a role in any mishaps, the FRA said.

(Reporting by Patrick Rucker; Editing by Dan Grebler, Bernard Orr)

This article was from Reuters and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

27 comments

  1. For ND simple expediate the building of the ‘Energy Transfer’ pipeline– build from both ends like the TransContinental railroad, build time cut in half– or from both ends and from the middle out- build time cut to a quarter

  2. Pipelines are safer than rail… Want to reduce spills, then build more pipelines… Either way it’s no more dangerous than the gas in your car, and probably less.

  3. That’s why the NDIC ruling will be enforced starting April 1st.

  4. Tell Warren Buffet to quit lobbying against pipelines.

  5. Obviously we should quit shipping any flamable product by rail, like gasoline, propane, ethanol, etc.

  6. Why? We aren’t driving the trains. Maybe pipelines should be considered more..and think of how much emissions could be cut

  7. Screw buffett …but hes connected….its all a scam

  8. while this is a good idea, how about a pipeline…maybe a little safer and economics.

  9. I’m sorry but it doesn’t matter how strong your train car is have you seen a train wreck if it off the tracks all bets are off

  10. Personally I think the only pipeline that should be underground is water

  11. really, our train tracks are in no condition to move the amount of traffic that has happened in the past 6 years, rail companies have been lax on repairs

  12. It doesnt have anything to do with bakken crude, its the rail & operators & bnsf safety, over crowded system

  13. go haul some coal or wheat or automobiles

  14. Keep up the good work guys