Fires as crude-oil train derails in US

10 November 2013, News Wires – A fire ripped through a 90-car train carrying crude oil in the US state of Alabama as officials prepare to begin cleaning up spilled oil in marshland.

Railway company Genessee & Wyoming said the train, which derailed at around 1 am Friday with no injuries reported, included three locomotives and 90 DOT-108 tank cars each carrying about 30,000 gallons of oil (714 barrels).

That puts the train’s total load at around 65,000 barrels.

“The cause of the derailment will be determined following completion of a comprehensive investigation,” Genesee said in a statement.

An early look at the conditions around the wreck showed no immediate clues: Train data shows the train was going below the 40 mph posted limit and the railway has not identified any performance problems with the two-man crew.

The track is required to have weekly inspections and was last checked out on 4 November, and another train had passed less than three hours earlier.

The derailment, which saw 20 cars go off the track, also set a wooden railway trestle on fire nearly the town of Aliceville. Responders will let the fire burn out for safety reasons, Genesee said.

An unknown quantity of oil has seeped out upstream and downstream of the wreck to the marshland, with boom put in place to curtail its spread.

“It is expected that the recapture of the crude oil from the water will begin tomorrow,” Genesee said, adding that hazmat contractors and air monitoring capability are both available.

“The railroad takes full responsibility for this cleanup, which will continue until the site is remediated.”

Genessee said the train was headed from Amory, Mississippi, to Walnut Hill, Florida. A local official told Reuters that the crude had originated from North Dakota, home of the prolific Bakken shale.

Rail transportation of oil has increased due to a lack of pipeline capacity in the Bakken. A debate over the safety of rail transports has raged in the wake of numerous derailments, including a catastrophic accident in the town of Lac-Megantic in Quebec, Canada, earlier this year.

That crash levelled a town centre and killed 47 people.

The Quebec accident sparked a push for tougher standards in oil rail shipments in North America, including better testing of potentially explosive ultra-light shale crude and improved rail tank cars.

Tank cars built before 2011 have been flagged as dangerously prone to puncture damage.

Genesee said it has notified the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Railroad Administration and the National Crisis Response Centre, according to operating procedure.

– Upstream

About the Author