Federal agency warns Bakken crude oil may be more dangerous than other oil


The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, issued a safety alert on Thursday stating that crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana may be more flammable than traditional crude oil.

Recent oil tanker train derailments and resulting fires prompted the investigations into the safety of oil transportation by railroad.

One of PHMSA’s primary concerns after four months of inspections is the proper labeling of tanker cars’ contents based on the liquid’s level of flammability.

The federal agency’s announcement comes only days after a BNSF Railway train derailed and exploded near Casselton, a town in eastern North Dakota. The Associated Press reported that no one was hurt, but the tankers exploded into flames, which emergency crews could not put out for more than 24 hours.

“There have been numerous derailments in this area,” Casselton Mayor Ed McConnell told the AP last week. McConnell and other residents of town are worried that further problems could lead to crashes with casualties. “It’s almost gotten to the point that it looks like not if we’re going to have an accident, it’s when.”

Last July, flames engulfed the core of Lac-Megantic, a Quebec town of some 6,000 people about 150 miles east of Montreal and near the Maine border. The fire was the result of a derailed oil tanker train carrying crude oil from Bakken formation. Bloomberg reported that the oil transported on that train had been improperly labeled as less hazardous than it really was.