Over the past several years, the amount of crude oil that has been transported by rail out of the Bakken region in the Midwest has skyrocketed. Each train carries more than 3 million gallons of oil, among 110 loaded cars, traveling across the United States. Each month, there are over 400 trains transporting this highly flammable crude.
After a string of train accidents – including the tragic Lac Megantic, Quebec incident which killed 47 people and destroyed the town - the U.S. Department of Transportation declared Bakken crude oil to be extremely more volatile than originally thought.
Bakken crude is lighter than traditional heavy crudes, making it prone to ignite at lower temperatures. Lighter crudes contain more natural gas, giving it a much lower flash point – the temperature at which vapors given off by the oil can ignite.
The causes of these train accidents have included human error, equipment failure, and railroad track problems. Although there were new railroad safety standards adopted by railroads in 2011, federal regulators have failed to mandate those standards. Instead, the number of oil train crashes continues to increase.
There have been 14 documented incidents in the past three years, with the latest crash occurring just this past June in Oregon.
Recently, the Canadian government announced it was accelerating the phasing out the type of rail cars that were transporting the crude oil in the Lac Megantic tragedy. The DOT-111 tank cars will no longer be used as of October 31, 2016. These cars do not have a thermal layer inside of them. The U.S., however, will not be ending the use of these cars until 2018, continuing to put communities across the country at high risk.
The Bakken crude oil boom shows no signs of slowing down. Instead, there are plans to build more oil terminals, which means more crude being transported. Emergency Film Group’s Crude Oil Spill Response Package provides comprehensive training for emergency personnel to effectively respond to these dangerous incidents.