Train Accidents Make Transporting Bakken Oil a High Risk

Although commentary on the danger of oil field accidents in the Bakken tends to focus on the perils to workers of drilling and extracting the oil from the ground, the transportation risks to both workers and communities involved are also significant.

Hauling oil in a truck, for example, poses hazards both from the oil and the congestion and overuse of roads that were not planned for heavy traffic. Pipelines can rupture and spill gallons into the environment. Finally, transporting oil via railroads has come under scrutiny and made one online observer focused on the rail industry call Bakken oil a “dangerous friend” to train companies.

Why? Derailments and other rail accidents can cause oil not just to spill, but to ignite. Bakken oil is a light crude, which makes it more volatile than other crudes—and thus more likely to catch fire. In the 2013-2014 period, several major accidents occurred, including one near Casselton, North Dakota. Partly as a result, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced stricter rules on the transport of oil by rail. The new rules, reported in the May 1, 2015 Houston Chronicle,included lower speeds and expanded types of cars intended to increase railroad safety.

However, just a week after the announcement, a 109-car train derailed in North Dakota, causing at least 10 cars to burst into flame and forcing the evacuation of an entire town. According to news reports on the accident, it was the fifth derailment in 2015 and one of nearly 25 such accidents since 2006.

If you want to talk about unsafe conditions or accidents in the Bakken oil field, contact us. We will fight vigilantly to see that your rights are protected.

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