Federal safety regulators begin "Bakken Blitz" of crude oil rail shipments

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and Federal Railroad Administration have stepped up spot safety checks of rail shipments of crude oil from the Bakken shale. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and Federal Railroad Administration have stepped up spot safety checks of rail shipments of crude oil from the Bakken shale.

The inspections, which Cynthia Quarterman, head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, calls the "Bakken Blitz," are a response to the July rail disaster in Quebec, The Associated Press reported. An unattended train carrying crude oil from the Bakken rolled while parked overnight into Lac-Megantic, causing an explosion and the death of 47 people.

Federal regulators were surprised by the incident because the type of oil on the train was unlikely to ignite. Inspectors are checking to make sure the quality of oil listed on the shipping papers was actually on the train, the AP said.

"For example, they should have a safety and security plan if they are shipping something that is very volatile," Quarterman said.

While the regulators have stepped up the oil and gas industry inspections recently, they actually began in March, before the Quebec incident, when employees in the field noticed "inconsistencies with crude oil classification," Bloomberg reported.

PennEnergy's research area offers additional information on oil transportation.

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