Sunday, December 14, 2014

ND's Meaningless New Bakken Oil Regs Will Keep Bomb Trains Rolling

North Dakota's Meaningless New Bakken Oil Regulations Will Keep Bomb Trains Rolling


Justin Mikulka        12/11/14

New regulations purported to make Bakken crude safer for transport instead allow business as usual for the oil and rail industries moving explosive Bakken crude oil in unsafe DOT-111 rail cars.

The regulations announced Tuesday by the North Dakota Industrial Commission state that: “The goal is to produce crude oil that does not exceed a vapor pressure of 13.7 pounds per square inch (psi).”

There are two important things to note about this goal.

The first is that the vapor pressure of the oil that exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, resulting in the death of 47 people, was under 10 psi and was described as being “as volatile as gasoline.” So the new regulations will permit oil that is significantly more volatile than the oil in the Lac-Megantic disaster to continue to be shipped by rail.

The second important thing to note is that almost all of the oil that the industry and regulators have sampled in the past year has been well below 13.7 psi. Of 99 samples taken in the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s sampling study, 94 were below 13.7 psi and the average psi for that study was 12.3 psi....

....[also]... the North Dakota Industrial Commission is aware that Bakken producers have not only been shipping dangerous oil that has high levels of natural gas liquids (NGLs), such as butane, that are part of the crude oil mixture as it comes out of the ground but that they have been actively adding such explosive NGLs to the oil prior to shipping it by rail.....  read more here

Informed comment by Ron Schalow:     [same link]

Railway Age called it on September 26th...
"The state’s (North Dakota) three-person Industrial Commission seems likely to adopt a set of industry-designed best practices. Simply put, North Dakotan crude will have to be lightly pressure-cooked to boil off a fraction of the volatile “light ends” before shipment."

This conditioning lowers the ignition temperature of crude oil—but not by much. It leaves in solution most of the culprit gases, including butane and propane.

Even the industry itself says conditioning would not make Bakken crude meaningfully safer for transportation, though it would make the state’s crude more consistent from one well to another.
The only solution for safety is stabilization, which evaporates and re-liquefies nearly all of the petroleum gases for separate delivery to refiners. Stabilization is voluntarily and uniformly practiced in the Eagle Ford formation in Texas..."--Railway Age
Ron Schalow
Fargo, North Dakota
The Coalition for Bakken Crude Oil Stabilization

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