Bakken crude oil produced in North Dakota could have a higher flammability than other crude oils, and could be more prone to explosions. That’s being investigated by U.S. officials after being theorized after recent rail transport accidents.
A new safety alert from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration warns Bakken producers about the possibility of increased flammability. The memo comes in the aftermath of an accident along a stretch of North Dakota railway.
Investigators have noticed a surprising degree of explosive force and resulting damage from recent rail transport accidents, including the latest one in the final days of 2013 near Casselton, North Dakota. In that explosion, the resulting force was more than traditionally observed in these situations. Likewise, Bakken producers have reported large amounts of corrosion in tank cars, more than is typical from this type of transport.
Officials are now examining whether Bakken crude exhibits a more corrosive or sulfurous nature than other crude oils. In the meantime, Bakken producers are being warned to “sufficiently degasify” any crude oil loaded onto rail transport.
North Dakota Bakken production has skyrocketed in recent years, thanks to advances in drilling techniques. The increase in production has led to a massive increase in rail transport. Trains carried nearly 700,000 barrels a day to market in October, an increase of more than 65%.