CBS: Train derailment highlights oil-transportation issues

posted at 10:01 am on May 1, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

A train derailment in Lynchburg, Virginia dumped as much as 50,000 gallons of oil, the latest such rail disaster in a recent series. Thus far, the spill doesn’t pose a safety issue for local water use, as the river into which the rail cars tumbled is only used as a drought resource. CBS News raises the point that the safety of oil transport by rail has become a serious problem, and that the federal government has thus far acted slowly to respond to it:

Concern about the safety of oil trains was heightened last July when runaway oil train derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, near the Maine border. Forty-seven people died and 30 buildings were incinerated. Canadian investigators said the combustibility of the 1.3 million gallons of light, sweet Bakken crude released in Lac-Megantic was comparable to gasoline.

“This is another national wake-up call,” said Jim Hall, a former NTSB chairman said of the Lynchburg crash. “We have these oil trains moving all across the United States through communities and the growth and distribution of this has all occurred, unfortunately, while the federal regulators have been asleep.”

“This is just an area in which the federal rulemaking process is too slow to protect the American people,” he said.

There have been eight significant oil train accidents in the U.S. and Canada in the past year involving trains hauling crude oil, including several that resulted in spectacular fires, according to the safety board.

This has become an issue, although more in the Midwest and Plains states. The product of the Bakken field has to get shipped by rail to refineries in the South, which has also involved a series of rail accidents.  The federal government and the railroad industry reached an accord on new voluntary measures to reduce oil-related rail accidents in February, but these either didn’t get implemented in time, or don’t address the cause of the Lynchburg failure (which may have been storm-weakened soil under the tracks).

There are really only two ways to address oil-transport issues. Either we need to build new refineries closer to production, or we need pipelines rather than rail for transport. The US has barely budged on new refineries over the last 30-plus years, and the regulatory hurdles for building new plants — even though demand would support it — makes this option nearly impossible. That leaves us with pipelines, and this administration has used the regulatory hurdles on the Keystone XL pipeline to indefinitely stall the project. They may kill it to appease their allies in the environmental movement.

That won’t stop us from producing and moving oil, however, even if that’s the real goal of the environmentalists blocking refinery and pipeline projects. It just means that we’ll continue to do so in the least-safe manner.


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As long as Warren Buffett owns the Choo-Choo Obama will never allow Keystone.

ConstantineXI on May 1, 2014 at 10:03 AM

A few eggs have to be broken and all that, you don’t mind being incinerated for the greater cause of social eco justice, do you? Good.

Bishop on May 1, 2014 at 10:03 AM

What might solve that problem?

Taxing the top 1% into oblivion, and Solyndra.

NotCoach on May 1, 2014 at 10:04 AM

What might solve that problem?

Grazing fees.

Electrongod on May 1, 2014 at 10:05 AM

…and make absolutely sure that “good” billionaires like Buffett make the profits, not those “evil” Koch brothers, right, Harry? Gummint regulations are for punishing the bad guys, eh?

…and, Bishop!

DublOh7 on May 1, 2014 at 10:06 AM

A few eggs have to be broken and all that, you don’t mind being incinerated for the greater cause of social eco justice, do you? Good.

Bishop on May 1, 2014 at 10:03 AM

Hey, I resemble that remark.

They want just enough oil for the nomenklatura to move around freely between their penthouse aparments, countryside dachas and government offices. Surely Buffett’s model railroad system can handle that, right?

Steve Eggleston on May 1, 2014 at 10:07 AM

Here in the Permian Basin of West Texas, the trenches for new pipelines are everywhere, and no one wants an intermodial rail yard transferring oil to tanker cars anywhere near them, because they know the pipelines are inherently safer than rail transport. But the enviros have latched onto the idea that all pipelines are evil, so any high-profile lines draw Pavlovian opposition (of course, some simply oppose the idea of fossil fuels in general, and would protest not just Keystone XL but every pipeline in the country if they could, except for the fact so many new ones are being laid even they, their billionaire backers and the big media types couldn’t keep up the outrageous outrage over that wide an area).

jon1979 on May 1, 2014 at 10:09 AM

bakken crude seems to be more volatile than others, forget the figure but api is different.
it blows up easier.

dmacleo on May 1, 2014 at 10:11 AM

…and, Bishop!

DublOh7 on May 1, 2014 at 10:06 AM

Better luck next time!! :-)

Deano1952 on May 1, 2014 at 10:11 AM

Are you sure about the water Ed, F&F, which I know isn’t real news, said that Richmond was going to alternate water source this after noon. Maybe they are just going to check the James River.

Cindy Munford on May 1, 2014 at 10:11 AM

Obama/EPA: Simple solution. Refineries will never be approved. Done. Pipelines will no longer be approved. Done. Coal has been regulated out of existence. All Federal land off limits for any and all hydrocarbon development. Done. To save the children, any and all shipment by rail of anything hydrocarbon based is immediately suspended. Welcome to O’s Brave New World…

vnvet on May 1, 2014 at 10:12 AM

That accident in Canada killed a bunch of folks. Now let’s go hug a tree.

Cindy Munford on May 1, 2014 at 10:13 AM

…and, Bishop!

DublOh7 on May 1, 2014 at 10:06 AM

Better luck next time!! :-)

Deano1952 on May 1, 2014 at 10:11 AM

Miss it by 4, and don’t beat Bishop – there won’t be a next time.

Steve Eggleston on May 1, 2014 at 10:14 AM

They want just enough oil for the nomenklatura to move around freely between their penthouse aparments, countryside dachas and government offices. Surely Buffett’s model railroad system can handle that, right?

Steve Eggleston on May 1, 2014 at 10:07 AM

Well yes but they will need trains for other reasons too, specifically cattle cars.

Bishop on May 1, 2014 at 10:14 AM

What might solve that problem?

A solar powered Air Force One…

PatriotRider on May 1, 2014 at 10:14 AM

Like Democrats care.

MTF on May 1, 2014 at 10:14 AM

Wind Farms I say…WIND FARMS!

SayNo2-O on May 1, 2014 at 10:15 AM

…was it one of Buffett’s trains?

KOOLAID2 on May 1, 2014 at 10:16 AM

Well yes but they will need trains for other reasons too, specifically cattle cars.

Bishop on May 1, 2014 at 10:14 AM

Moooo.

Steve Eggleston on May 1, 2014 at 10:17 AM

What might solve that problem?</blockquote

Eliminate racist owners in the NBA too!
And the Redskins has got to go!

SayNo2-O on May 1, 2014 at 10:17 AM

Wind Farms I say…WIND FARMS!

SayNo2-O on May 1, 2014 at 10:15 AM

…yes!…but now planes… are even crashing into them!

KOOLAID2 on May 1, 2014 at 10:18 AM

What might solve that problem?

More news about racist NBA owners…

PatriotRider on May 1, 2014 at 10:19 AM

…was it one of Buffett’s trains?

KOOLAID2 on May 1, 2014 at 10:16 AM

Last I checked, CSX wasn’t in the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio, though Buffett had eyed them up back in 2011.

Steve Eggleston on May 1, 2014 at 10:21 AM

Are oil train derailments getting more common, or are they just getting reported more? Are these trains getting sabotaged to make rail transport seem more dangerous?
1. Stop the pipeline,
2. Stop the trains,
3. ..?..,
4. Profit!

tdarrington on May 1, 2014 at 10:24 AM

What might solve that problem?

Stop drilling altogether and we won’t spill a drop of oil.

Duh

/

Vero Beach Florida on May 1, 2014 at 10:26 AM

We want a pipeline- NO
We want fracking -NO
We want oil trains- NO
We want nuclear- NO
We want wind- NO
We want Solar- NO
We want coal- NO

For every energy solution there is some environmental wacko group to say NO!

Lets go back to chopping down trees for fuel. Oh yeah…NO

tdarrington on May 1, 2014 at 10:27 AM

The federal government and the railroad industry reached an accord on new voluntary measures to reduce oil-related rail accidents in February, but these either didn’t get implemented in time, or don’t address the cause of the Lynchburg failure (which may have been storm-weakened soil under the tracks).

There are really only two ways to address oil-transport issues. Either we need to build new refineries closer to production, or we need pipelines rather than rail for transport.

Ed Morrissey on May 1, 2014 at 10:01 AM

.
“Storm weakened soil” (washout) could well be the cause of this wreck, but I (being the conspiracy “nut”, that I am) am still considering sabotage, in at least some of these accidents.

Those two options you mentioned, are the only options as we (normal people) see it.
The “greeners” would demand we stop using petroleum and coal to ‘energize’ our standard of living in the U.S. … and strictly speaking, that would solve this particular problem.
It’s irrelevant to the “useful idiots”, what the downside is to that action.

listens2glenn on May 1, 2014 at 10:40 AM

There is a small refinery in ND being built right now by Calument. It’s 20,000 BPD and the only finished product it will produce is diesel. It costs to much to transport products from Bakken for there to be any need for refineries up there.

That being said, there is NOT going to be replacement of Keystone XL with rail transport, the cost is WAYYYY to high for rail transport with the need for steam coils at destination terminals. That is a 30 day round trip. BTW, most of that would be going by Canadian rail down to Louisiana NOT to Texas, anyway.

Also, I do not understand why a train full of crude is in Lynchburg due it would be a roundabout way to get to NJ & PA from Bakken as there are NO refineries in GA, SC, NC, VA, or MD for it to go to.

Also, that “refinery” proposed for SD several years ago never even applied for permits. It was pretty much a sham project.

Kermit on May 1, 2014 at 10:40 AM

What might solve that problem?

Lose this guy 0 and get someone competent?

Bmore on May 1, 2014 at 10:42 AM

As long as Warren Buffett owns the Choo-Choo Obama will never allow Keystone.

ConstantineXI on May 1, 2014 at 10:03 AM

Very true.

bw222 on May 1, 2014 at 10:43 AM

dmacleo on May 1, 2014 at 10:11 AM

It is not just the API but it is like North Sea Brent with lots of entrained gases. 50,000 tank cars are out of service for crude oil due new standards by DOT. They will have to be refitted to the new standards at $10′s of thousands per tank car in cost, much less lost productivity.

Kermit on May 1, 2014 at 10:43 AM

How bout those new tank car regulations handed down from the alphabet bureau?

Murphy9 on May 1, 2014 at 10:47 AM

What might solve that problem?

#Morehashtags!

bigmacdaddy on May 1, 2014 at 10:50 AM

Clearly the problem with oil isn’t just the transportation, but that it’s a dirty, polluting, awful fossil fuel. Why build leaky pipelines when we can just subsidize green energy sources, like wind, solar and unicorn farts and migrate people to that?

hoffy on May 1, 2014 at 10:51 AM

bw222 on May 1, 2014 at 10:43 AM

Not really, Canadian crude would be more CN.

Kermit on May 1, 2014 at 10:57 AM

It is not just the API but it is like North Sea Brent with lots of entrained gases. 50,000 tank cars are out of service for crude oil due new standards by DOT. They will have to be refitted to the new standards at $10′s of thousands per tank car in cost, much less lost productivity.

Kermit on May 1, 2014 at 10:43 AM

yup.
many can’t be refitted, so this is actually a huge issue.
the bakken stuff blowing so easily has been on the minds of many, the “new” (2013 iirc) rules for tank cars may not even address this so theres that too.
and the pipelines don’t (for the most part) deal with east-west traffic so its something that is being looked at very closely by railroads.

it does seem to me (not at all scientific observation) there are more actual incidents with the bakken stuff and this isn’t just an issue where faster reporting brings it to our attention more. but the reporting tends to make it look like rail is dangerous when it really isn’t when you look at the full picture. pipelines report spills differently causing a somewhat distorted view.

dmacleo on May 1, 2014 at 10:58 AM

In the meantime, now that Parnell got Palin’s onerous high taxes repealed, dozens of brand new drilling rigs will be headed to AK this summer.

Kermit on May 1, 2014 at 10:58 AM

I’m sorry is a conservative site actually complaining that the Feds have been too slow to regulate private industry???? The frack?

libfreeordie on May 1, 2014 at 11:00 AM

dmacleo on May 1, 2014 at 10:58 AM

Back in the early 80′s when Brent replaced Libyan at Gulf Coast refineres (and before they spent billions to reconfigure to handle very heavy crude from Venezuela and Mexico), those gases caused lots of problems and safety issues with tankers. Cargo pumps were constantly vapor locking if discharge rate even approached 20,000 barrels per hour. Those gases had to be vented to the atmosphere making the deck a very unsafe place to be.

Kermit on May 1, 2014 at 11:01 AM

libfreeordie on May 1, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Wrong question since it already is highly regulated to the point of ticking liberal Canadians off.

Kermit on May 1, 2014 at 11:04 AM

libfreeordie on May 1, 2014 at 11:00 AM

shutup racist.

dmacleo on May 1, 2014 at 11:06 AM

There is a small refinery in ND being built right now by Calument. It’s 20,000 BPD and the only finished product it will produce is diesel. It costs to much to transport products from Bakken for there to be any need for refineries up there.

Diesel fuel can be produced by simple distillation of crude oil, but in order to convert wild naphtha (compounds in crude oil boiling between 100 F and 350 F) to high-octane gasoline, a catalytic reformer is needed, which is relatively expensive to build, and the reaction consumes heat. For such a process to be economical, a certain minimum size is needed, which causes it to be a “major source” of air pollution, which requires years to obtain a permit, especially with the new 2010 EPA rules limiting emissions of “greenhouse gases” from power plants and (you guessed it!) refineries.

In reality, refining processes only consume about 2 to 3% of the energy content of crude oil, meaning that burning the refined products will emit 30 to 50 times more CO2 than the refinery. But that doesn’t matter–Obama has to placate the Democrat Greenies and Dirty Evil Big Oil must be punished!!!

What is needed is a common-sense loosening of the environmental permitting rules for refineries, so they can be built closer to sources of crude oil, and pipelines to move crude oil and refined products to market, to reduce the likelihood of oil spills and fires from railway and truck accidents.

Steve Z on May 1, 2014 at 11:17 AM

Good grief. Blaming Warren Buffet for the Obama Administration’s idiotic environmental policies and their shameful failure to approve the Keystone Pipeline is as idiotic and conspiratorial in nature as blaming the Koch Brothers. To suggest that he would oppose the pipeline because he has rail investments is too stupid for words. For one thing, his rail lines ship coal. How do you dunces reconcile that with Obama Administration policies? Don’t bother. It’s a rhetorical question. Oh and then there’s this.

If you want to blame individuals, blame Tom Steyer, Daryll Hannah, the powers that be at the Sierra Club, and the like.

Buy Danish on May 1, 2014 at 11:18 AM

Steve Z on May 1, 2014 at 11:17 AM

There already are a number of Maxim units operating in ND to produce crude. Actually a reformer is used to up the octane.

Steve, refineries depend on product pipelines to move product. There are also byproducts which require some sort of nearby petrochemical industry to make any money. It is a whole lot more than just making gasoline and diesel at play in refining. Something I happen to know about as part of my profession.

Kermit on May 1, 2014 at 11:21 AM

Buy Danish on May 1, 2014 at 11:18 AM

From that area his cash cow is coal from the Powder River Basin. Otherwise his other big profit center is moving containers to and fro the West Coast which is why he funded all the fake ranchers and Ron Paul in the anti-TransTexasCorridor campaign. The suckers (Libertarians) bought the propaganda.

Kermit on May 1, 2014 at 11:24 AM

I’m sorry is a conservative site actually complaining that the Feds have been too slow to regulate private industry???? The frack?

libfreeordie on May 1, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Uhmmm, no. It’s about REGRESSIVES saying “no” to every common-sense issue. The safest way to transport oil is by pipeline. But REGRESSIVES will choose the most expensive, dangerous way to transport it because it feels good. It’s like mental masturbation. All good feelings with no grounding in reality.

If REGRESSIVES had any common sense, they would choose the cheapest and safest means of transporting oil. Otherwise it just seems like they love hurting the poor with artificially high gas prices and the environment with spills and burning pollution!

dominigan on May 1, 2014 at 11:26 AM

War On Coal:

When was the last time that a ‘coal train’ derailed and caught fire?

Another Drew on May 1, 2014 at 11:45 AM

What might solve that problem?

Fixing income inequality? Implementing Pickerty? Free Birth control? Obamacare? Reduce Defense Spending? All of the above?/s

If the standard Progressive Left answers do not fit, do not acquit; just change the question.

KW64 on May 1, 2014 at 11:56 AM

War On Coal:

When was the last time that a ‘coal train’ derailed and caught fire?

Another Drew on May 1, 2014 at 11:45 AM

Sounds like a new project for ELF…

There Goes the Neighborhood on May 1, 2014 at 12:03 PM

Why is this suddenly an issue? Did they just start transporting oil by train recently?

xblade on May 1, 2014 at 12:51 PM

Why is this suddenly an issue? Did they just start transporting oil by train recently?

xblade on May 1, 2014 at 12:51 PM

over last few years oil by rail has expanded a lot, I mean a lot.

dmacleo on May 1, 2014 at 1:57 PM

Why is this suddenly an issue? Did they just start transporting oil by train recently?

xblade on May 1, 2014 at 12:51 PM

Shipment by rail is up dramatically, as the US is importing less oil and producing more domestically.

Good grief. Blaming Warren Buffet for the Obama Administration’s idiotic environmental policies and their shameful failure to approve the Keystone Pipeline is as idiotic and conspiratorial in nature as blaming the Koch Brothers. To suggest that he would oppose the pipeline because he has rail investments is too stupid for words. For one thing, his rail lines ship coal. How do you dunces reconcile that with Obama Administration policies? Don’t bother. It’s a rhetorical question. Oh and then there’s this.

If you want to blame individuals, blame Tom Steyer, Daryll Hannah, the powers that be at the Sierra Club, and the like.

Buy Danish on May 1, 2014 at 11:18 AM

Berkshire doesn’t just own the railroad (BNSF), but also the cars typically used to transport the oil (Union Tankcar, which is a Chicago company). It was one of the major companies owned by the Pritzker family in Chicago. Penny Pritzker is our Secretary of Commerce.

In Exile on May 1, 2014 at 2:00 PM

In Exile on May 1, 2014 at 2:00 PM

It also bought Union Tank Car too, in addition to the railroad.

Kermit on May 1, 2014 at 2:24 PM

Rail transport to East Coast refining is mostly on non BNSF track. I don’t think they have anything east of the Mississippi River.

Kermit on May 1, 2014 at 2:26 PM

There are really only two ways to address oil-transport issues. Either we need to build new refineries closer to production, or we need pipelines rather than rail for transport.

Pipelines leak or rupture if there’s worker error, poor maintenance or construction or weather issues:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pipeline_accidents_in_the_United_States_in_the_21st_century.

jim56 on May 1, 2014 at 2:35 PM

Rail transport to East Coast refining is mostly on non BNSF track. I don’t think they have anything east of the Mississippi River.

Kermit on May 1, 2014 at 2:26 PM

http://map.friendsofbnsf.com/railways
very little past it,looks like any that is is also separated by a trackage rights before hitting ownership rights too.

dmacleo on May 1, 2014 at 2:45 PM

jim56 on May 1, 2014 at 2:35 PM

The vast majority of those are minor leaks at pumps stations and not pipelines themselves.

Kermit on May 1, 2014 at 2:59 PM

If only there was some sort of enclosed metal tube running from point a to point b that could get oil poured into…

ptcamn on May 1, 2014 at 3:10 PM

When was the last time that a ‘coal train’ derailed and caught fire?

Another Drew on May 1, 2014 at 11:45 AM

Cat Stevens

Ah shyt. never mind, that was “Peace train”

WryTrvllr on May 1, 2014 at 3:11 PM

I’m sorry is a conservative site actually complaining that the Feds have been too slow to regulate private industry???? The frack?

libfreeordie on May 1, 2014 at 11:00 AM

.
Not me … I believe the railroads need to pay less (a LOT less) in corporate taxes, but … be held responsible for cleaning up every derailment to the ‘empth degree’.

listens2glenn on May 1, 2014 at 9:46 PM

I’m sorry is a conservative site actually complaining that the Feds have been too slow to regulate private industry???? The frack?

libfreeordie on May 1, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Conservatives actually don’t have a problem with limited, restricted, necessary, and effective regulations in order to solve genuine problems.

AesopFan on May 1, 2014 at 11:44 PM

I understand that someone, somewhere has invented a system whereby they ‘pump’ fluids thru these things called “PIPES”. In fact they even move this stuff called ‘coal slurry’ over hundreds of miles to get mined coal to distant power plants. And here is the AMAZING part … they don’t spill ANY of it!
AND (it gets better) some societies have been using this mysterious technology for CENTURIES. Amazing.

But you know King Putt wants to study this ‘new technology’ so that he doesn’t lose any of his Gimmedat Party supporters.

What is that saying, … he who hesitates is lost?

Stupid Americans.

Missilengr on May 2, 2014 at 2:07 AM