North Dakota oil companies are not pleased that new state and federal rules could make them make their crude oil less explosive before it is loaded onto trains. They claim that the new rules will not improve safety.
The AP has reported that North Dakota may implement new rules that are designed to cut down the volatility of crude oil by taking out some of the gases and liquids from the oil. The new rules would mandate that oil taken from the Bakken region of North Dakota be refined more before it is shipped across the US, which includes the state of Virginia – the home of a major train transfer hub in the southeast part of the state.
The idea is to reduce the chances of oil catching fire or exploding if the train derails. But some oil producers claim that these new rules are not needed.
According to a Hess Corp. spokesperson, no evidence has been shown that any measurable safety improvements would result from higher oil processing standards.
Kari Cutting, vice president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, also has been downplaying the volatility of the Bakken region crude. He noted that the disastrous derailment and explosion of an oil train in Quebec in 2013 that killed 47 people was not caused by the crude oil itself.
He added that requiring that the crude be further processed and ‘made safer’ would have no added safety benefits.
However, some recent studies indicate that oil volatility IS a problem with oil from that area. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration released a study this year that stated that oil from the Bakken area is more flammable than other types of oil. This type of oil may be able to catch fire at lower temperatures. An analysis by the Wall Street Journal in February confirmed these findings.
Meanwhile, in Virginia, Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner have praised new train safety standards that were passed by the federal government this year that attempt to make the transportation of Bakken crude safer.