PHMSA issues crude warning in wake of derailment
The U.S. Transportation Department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a safety alert in the wake of Monday’s derailment in North Dakota, which resulted in the combustion of crude oil, adding that oil transported from the Bakken region “may be more flammable than traditional heavy crude oil.”
Meanwhile, PHMSA is continuing its investigation into the transport of crude oil by rail.
The agency is making the call after inspections of crude oil fires resulted in derailments in North Dakota and Alabama, and a July accident near Quebec, Canada, that killed 47 people. At the end of October, a train carrying crude oil and liquefied natural gas derailed near Parkland County in Alberta, Canada, where no injuries occurred.
“PHMSA is reinforcing the requirement to properly test, characterize, classify, and where appropriate sufficiently degasify hazardous materials prior to and during transportation,” the agency wrote.
The latest rail accident involving crude oil occurred near Casselton, N.D., when a BNSF train carrying grain derailed and a train hauling crude oil in the opposite direction went off the track, causing a “significant post-crash fire,” according to the National Transportation Safety Board’s Robert Sumwalt.
NTSB launched a "go-team" to the site and during a press briefing Wednesday, Sumwalt said the team was still developing a timeline of the incident, determining how many locomotives were damaged in the crash, and trying to find the cause of the accident. Earlier, investigators had come across a damaged axle, but at that point, they weren’t sure if it was damaged before or after the derailment.
The team found while the BNSF train had been traveling 28 m.p.h. at the time of the crash, the train carrying oil had been running at an estimated speed of 42 m.p.h.
NTSB is still in the “early stages” of the investigation, Sumwalt said and inspectors will remain on site at least until the weekend.
In a statement, BNSF said it has opened a claims center Friday for victims of the crash and pledged to help as best it could.
“We are thankful there have been no injuries as a result of the derailment near Casselton, North Dakota, and are terribly sorry for the inconvenience this derailment has caused residents in the area,” the railroad said in a statement.