Bakken crude is highly volatile, but railroads also deserve blame for accidents

Data released by a lobbying group for oil refiners confirms that crude from North Dakota is very volatile and contains high levels of combustible gases, but the group says the crude is no more dangerous to ship than oil from other shale regions and new rules on safety standards are not needed.

Oil and refining companies say it's mostly the railroads that are at fault: a probe into the derailment and explosion of a train in Lac-Megantic last year found that brakes weren’t applied correctly; a train that exploded in North Dakota in December crashed into a train that had derailed across the tracks; and the April explosion of a train carrying Bakken crude through Lynchburg, Va., may have been caused because sections of the track bed had been washed away by heavy rains.

Among Bakken producers: CLR, EOG, WLL, HES, KOG, OAS, NOG, EOX, MRO.

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Comments (16)
  • Jeep
    , contributor
    Comments (1884) | Send Message
    Gosh. Who would have dreamed that 40 degree API oil would have lots of gas and condensates in it and that heavier oils would have less?


    If we had a sane government, it would get on with the business of allowing pipelines to be built and getting volatile petroleum products off the rails. But we are told the Keystone pipeline is unthinkable because it would carry petroleum, which when burnt gives off CO2, which is bad. However, putting the same petroleum in rail tank cars is good, even though most of it will be refined as fuel and burnt and give off the same CO2, while the trains also burn diesel, which gives off more CO2.


    As far as I can figure out, to the geniuses running our government, the CO2 given off by petroleum-based fuels is bad if the petroleum is transported by pipeline, but less bad if it is transported by rail. Or something.
    16 May 2014, 12:54 PM Reply Like
  • lldarthpaul
    , contributor
    Comments (12) | Send Message
    My goodness, are you saying that our government under Obuma would lie to the american people to push a ultra-liberal agenda. God forbid!!
    16 May 2014, 01:37 PM Reply Like
    , contributor
    Comments (90) | Send Message


    The Keystone XL pipeline would not have prevented a single one of those train derailments and explosions.


    Also, it's not economically feasible to run pipelines to and from every oil field and refinery.


    17 May 2014, 01:03 PM Reply Like
  • Craig Cooper
    , contributor
    Comments (2880) | Send Message


    You completely missed Jeep's point.


    Check out his contributions to SA discussions. He is much more astute and has a much better grasp of the O&G industry and associated issues than you suggest. He is one of the most valuable contributors here.
    17 May 2014, 08:15 PM Reply Like
  • DevilDog85
    , contributor
    Comments (266) | Send Message
    I believe they just want to do away with oil, coal and other hydocarbons. They believe hydrocarbons are archaic.
    18 May 2014, 10:11 PM Reply Like
  • Robert Polevoi
    , contributor
    Comments (87) | Send Message
    Can anyone out there (with real expertise, please) comment on the connection between the flaring practice in the Bakken and the volatiles content in the crude. As most people are aware, due to the economic pressure to the produce Bakken crude without the (uneconomic) need to sell the associated gas (casinghead gas), the Bakken gas is being flared to the tune of maybe 300 mmcf a day. The volatile fractions in the crude that make it dangerous are all NGLs, and there is always some NGL contents (e.g. propane) in light crude that ends up getting fractionated out in the refining process, even where associated gas has been sold and processed for NGL extraction.


    What I'm asking is whether, due to flaring, NGLs that would normally have been processed out of the gas are ending up in the crude, such that the crude has higher NGL content than it would have had with normal processing of the associated gas stream. In other words, are NGLs from the gas being left behind because of flaring? If so, the problems of rail safety and flaring (which is a shameful resource waste not permitted in any other hydrocarbon-producing state) are inherently related and could be solved in one blow.
    16 May 2014, 03:59 PM Reply Like
  • mmhudd
    , contributor
    Comments (18) | Send Message
    I would think that Obama's debt to Buffet is paid, and it is time to let the Keystone pipeline be built.
    16 May 2014, 04:14 PM Reply Like
  • flyerguy1300
    , contributor
    Comments (1140) | Send Message
    Would really be nice if they finished building the pipeline!!
    16 May 2014, 05:58 PM Reply Like
  • 745
    , contributor
    Comments (392) | Send Message
    I agree with you mmhudd. But you got to remember that those inWashington don't always make good decisions for the rest of our country. I would be surprised to see the pipeline started before our current president leaves office. And when he does leave office guess where he'll end up? Right on the board of directors at Berkshire Hathaway!
    16 May 2014, 05:02 PM Reply Like
  • Diggerdugit
    , contributor
    Comments (79) | Send Message
    Not sure I understand what the Keystone pipeline has to do with Bakken crude. The Keystone's major push is so the Canooks can ship their tarsands oil to the US refineries down by the Gulf--or am I wrong about that. We can still build pipelines from the Bakken to US refiners without BO's approval. It is also my understanding that the Oil Co's. in the Bakken play would just as soon ship their product via rail as apposed to a pipeline. I doubt that BO will show up on the BOD of the BNSF once out of office. The guy has NEVER held a business decision job in his life---remember his claim to fame is as a "community organizer". Buffett nor the BNSF need such expertise. BO like Clinton will make his $ post office of the President giving speeches. The guys not a deep thinker or a thinker on his feet at all. He is a very good orator, but then only if he has a monitor in front of him.
    16 May 2014, 08:30 PM Reply Like
  • Blue22
    , contributor
    Comments (449) | Send Message
    Drillers have to flare off gas as it is vented from the wellhead to prevent over-pressurization and explosions. Drillers would love to capture all that gas mix and send it to be processed into several valuable products. But unfortunately, they can't just load the gas from each well onto a train or truck or barge. Yes, you need pipelines to transport gas, which the Energy department doesn't seem to understand.
    16 May 2014, 08:37 PM Reply Like
  • Scootrd
    , contributor
    Comments (394) | Send Message
    keystone is great for political theater , however the pipeline accomplishes nothing long term for US benefit, zip , zero, nada , the big goose egg. But makes great fodder for 24 hour drive by media and political wrangling talking points. Rail will be main mode of transport for years to come. TRN , ARII, GBX Will all benefit.
    17 May 2014, 06:07 PM Reply Like
  • Craig Cooper
    , contributor
    Comments (2880) | Send Message
    Rail transport of hydrocarbons is a bubble that will burst in the not too distant future... no pun intended.
    17 May 2014, 08:17 PM Reply Like
  • Scootrd
    , contributor
    Comments (394) | Send Message
    Define "not too distant" future. Rather silly for US citizens to believe we can pipeline our way out of rail transport. Rail transport may diminish someday but it certainly will not be in the "not too distant" future. That horizon is not even visible at present time.
    18 May 2014, 08:35 AM Reply Like
  • Craig Cooper
    , contributor
    Comments (2880) | Send Message
    Rail transport will always play a role in the movement of hydrocarbons but will diminish in significance within 3 years as shale / unconventional plays mature and pipeline infrastructure projects catch up to what has been rapid upstream growth.

    18 May 2014, 11:00 AM Reply Like
  • 745
    , contributor
    Comments (392) | Send Message
    I have a lot of my portfolio invested in Bakken producer and Bakken service companies. I grew up in that region and have many relatives and friends who make their living there. Very recently I went on a hike along the Kooteni River in Northwest Montana. The BNSF Railroad runs right alongside the river for many miles in that area. During my hike I saw several loaded and empty oil trains running alongside the river. I was thinking there was no doubt that some of that product was produced by one or more of the companies I invest in. No sooner had that thought entered my mind, it was replaced with one of a derailed oil train spilling thousands of gallons of oil into the beautiful Kooteni River. It would be horrendous to even think of the devastation it would cause. Even worse than that would be the derailment of one of these trains in a high population area with a large loss of life. Every oil train that departs the loading facility has a catastrophic risk factor attached to it. I know this because I was an Engineer for BNSF for over 30 years. Trains have and will continue to fall off the tracks. We hope for the best but sometimes they are bad ones. I don't pretend to know the answers to this dilemma nor whether pipelines are the magic wand. I want my companies that I invest in to continue to profit by being able to market their product where it best suits them. So my point is do not be surprised when you hear that there has been a catastrophic derailment somewhere in the country. I just hope there has not been a loss of life associated with it.
    18 May 2014, 01:19 PM Reply Like
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