Train carrying crude oil collides in North Dakota causing massive explosion

Published on : Tuesday, December 31, 2013

North-DakotaA BNSF train carrying crude oil in North Dakota has collided with another train causing massive alert among the citizens living nearby setting off a series of explosions that left at least 10 cars ablaze.

Five powerful explosions were heard by the local residents just a mile outside the small town of Casselton after a westbound train carrying soybeans derailed and an eastbound 104-car train hauling crude oil ran into it. There have been no reports of injury so far.

Windows shook at the auditor’s office and approximately 10 cars are fully engulfed resulting in heavy smoke in the area. Local fire and hazardous material teams were battling the blaze. It was not clear however how the collision occurred.

People living (8km) to the south and east of Casselton were advised to evacuate the area to avoid contact with the smoke and those within 10 miles were asked to remain indoors.

The crew is pushing snow to contain the oil before it reaches the creek nearby. Almost half of the oil cars have been separated from the train but 56 are still in danger. Both the engines in the oil train were destroyed by the collision.

Both trains were operated by BNSF Railway Co, which is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. The incident will likely stoke concerns about the safety of shipping increasing volumes of crude oil by rail, a trend that emerged from the unexpected burst of shale oil production out of North Dakota’s Bakken fields. Over two-thirds of the state’s oil production is currently shipped by rail.

The derailment occurred about a mile west of Casselton, a small town just west of Fargo, between an ethanol plant and the Casselton Reservoir, Fong said.

North Dakota is home to a shale oil boom that produced nearly 950,000 barrels of oil a day in October. It is also a major grain producer and long accustomed to a high volume of rail traffic.

This summer runaway oil train carrying Bakken crude derailed and exploded in the centre of the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic, killing 47 people. The incident fuelled a drive for tougher standards for such shipments, including potentially costly retrofits to improve the safety of tank cars that regulators have cited as prone to puncture.

In early November two dozen cars on another 90-car oil train derailed in rural Alabama, erupting into flames that took several days to fully extinguish.

The Association of American Railroads recently proposed costly fixes to older tank cars which include protective steel jackets, thermal protection and pressure relief valves, which could cost billions of dollars. Oil shippers, likely to be saddled with the costs of retrofits, oppose some of the changes proposed by the association.

The US department of transportation began an operation it dubbed Bakken Blitz, which includes spot inspection of oil shipments aboard trains in North Dakota to avoid disasters.

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