28 February 2014, News Wires – The US transportation regulator this week issued its latest emergency order aimed at curbing a spate of explosive derailments of trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota’s prolific Bakken shale, adding to new industry-driven safety measures agreed to this week.
The US Department of Transportation will require all crude oil shipping by rail to be tested and correctly classified.
The agency will also forbid any oil to be transported by rail under its least-restrictive Group III packing category and instead require the use of a “more robust” tank car mandated for higher-risk shipments.
“Today we are raising the bar for shipping crude oil on behalf of the families and communities along rail lines nationwide —if you intend to move crude oil by rail, then you must test and classify the material appropriately,” transportation secretary Anthony Foxx said.
Leading US oil-by-rail carriers have also put together a list of voluntary safety standards, including more frequent track inspections, improved braking systems, lower speed limits for trains with older tank cars and improved rail routing technology.
The US has seen a rash of explosive train wrecks amid a huge production ramp-up in US shales including North Dakota’s Bakken, where more oil has been moving by rail due to scare pipeline capacity.
The derailments have come from North Dakota to Alabama, with the worst toll thus far last July when a runaway train derailed and exploded in the centre of the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic, killing 47 people.
A study from the Wall Street Journal also recently found that oil from the Bakken and Eagle Ford shales has a much higher “vapour pressure”, meaning it tends to be much more likely to emit combustible gases than crude from other areas.