Dozens of Trains Haul Volatile Bakken Crude Weekly

Posted by Joseph Keefe
Wednesday, July 16, 2014

As many as 44 trains loaded with volatile Bakken crude oil are being sent through the state of New York each week, according to confidential disclosures made by railroads to state emergency responders, and released to Reuters through a Freedom of Information Law request.

The disclosures come as New York and other states grapple with health and safety risks posed by a recent surge in oil-by-rail cargoes, following at least six fiery derailments of trains carrying Bakken oil in North America since last July.

The New York State Emergency Response Commission released disclosures from railroads CSX Corp and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd on Tuesday. They estimate the number of trains carrying at least 1 million gallons of crude oil from the Bakken region that each railroad sends through New York weekly.

CSX sends 20 to 35 trains of Bakken crude through New York each week. Some of them travel through as many as 17 different counties, the disclosure shows. The so-called unit trains consist of strings of tank cars more than a mile long, and typically carry 1 million to 2 million gallons, or as much as 70,000 barrels of crude each, according to oil and shipping industry estimates.

Canadian Pacific (CP) sends five to nine Bakken oil-laden trains through New York per week, the company told the state's emergency responders.

A May 7 Department of Transportation Executive Order required railroads to inform emergency responders about large crude-by-rail cargoes of Bakken oil passing through their states.

The DOT issued the order because "a pattern of releases and fires involving Bakken originated crude oil represents an imminent threat to public safety," the Federal Railroad Administration said in an email in response to an inquiry about the matter.

Last July a derailment in Lac Megantic, Quebec killed 47 people.

Pockets of resistance to crude-by-rail traffic through New York State have been growing, with some groups in state capital Albany seeking to ban the trains, many of which are destined for a port there.

Several other states have released similar disclosures from railroads. Others have declined to make the disclosures public, citing confidentiality clauses.


The volume of unit trains carrying Bakken crude through New York shows the Empire State has become a leading destination for the light, sweet oil produced in North Dakota and Montana, which regulators say is more volatile than other varieties.

According to a Reuters analysis, the CSX and CP disclosures suggest that New York railways may handle between 850,000 and 3 million barrels of Bakken crude per week, based on typical unit train volumes and a weekly influx of between 25 and 44 trains.

The Bakken region produces around 1 million barrels of crude per day. Most of it is sent to market by railroad.

From the New York coast Bakken oil can be loaded onto barges and sent to refineries up and down the Eastern Seaboard.

By Joshua Schneyer

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