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North Dakota's Bakken crude oil safe to move by rail, study finds

June 18, 2014
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A new study to be released later this month will voice what many people from the industry have been saying -- that Bakken crude oil is safe for rail transport, Reuters reported. The study, which was carried out by the North Dakota Petroleum Council, found that the oil is no more flammable than other crude grades.

According to the study, Bakken crude is neither more flammable nor more volatile than benchmark West Texas Intermediate during rail transport, said the vice president of the council, Kari Cutting, during a recent Crude Oil Quality Association conference in Denver.

Derailments of trains that were carrying Bakken crude oil and ended up in flames have been investigated in the past year. One train derailed and burst into flames in Lynchburg, Virginia, on April 30. Another train exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, last June, killing 47 people.

So far two industry-funded studies have concluded that Bakken fuel is safe to transport by standard tank cars, stating that it is not a flammable gas and does not require heavier and more expensive cars for transport. The studies' conclusions were met with criticism and senators said they need to be reviewed.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council's study found Bakken crude to be a consistent and reliable grade of oil. According to Cutting, no evidence of 'spiking' or adding light ends to the study's samples was found. Some industry players hold the belief that the addition of lighter crude components to Bakken oil has made transportation by rail car more prone to explosions.

The council is introducing a new Bakken crude oil benchmark, which will be launched by the end of the summer.

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