14 January 2014 – A collision in December involving a crude-oil train that set off an explosive fire near Casselton, North Dakota spilled over 9500 barrels into the area, according to a preliminary investigation by US authorities.
Both the BNSF Railway tanker train and the BNSF grain train involved in the wreck were traveling below the speed limit of 60 mph, at 43 mph and 28 mph respectively, the document from the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released on Monday said.
The 30 December wreck happened on a clear, cold but overcast day, with temperatures at -1F and light winds from the north at 7 mph.
Nobody was reported injured but 1400 people were evacuated from nearby homes due to fumes.
The wreck is the latest in a series of incidents that have raised concerns about the increasing prevalance of oil shipping by rail, which has occured in the prolific Bakken shale play amid a dearth of pipeline capacity.
It has been a bad year for such incidents: Last Tuesday another crude train went off the rails in New Brunswick, Canada.
Earlier in 2013 similar scenarios played out in rural Alabama in October as well as Quebec in July, when a deadly blast killed 47 people and nearly leveled the town centre of Lac-Megantic.
US regulators have warned that the extra-light crude produced in the Bakken suggested earlier this month may be “more flammable” than other similar oil cargoes.
Lawmakers at the state and local level have called for inquiries and a moderation in the frenetic pace of shale development.
All told, 21 cars derailed from the tanker train, 20 crude-oil cars and another carrying sand. Eighteen of those broke open.
The report did not immediately point to a cause, but said a broken axle and two wheels will go to an NTSB lab for further review.
The emergency brake was applied before the crash, the agency said.
*Kathrine Schmidt, Upstreamonline