As many know, raising public awareness regarding the hazards of transporting crude oil by rail was one of my top priorities as 2016 Candidate for Lake County Board, District 18. Although this issue is not related to my current campaign, it is still an issue for which I’m greatly concerned. Trains carrying highly explosive and toxic Bakken crude oil travel through densely populated areas, including our schools, and threaten the lives of well over 25 million Americans. Lake County Board Chair Aaron Lawlor, to date, has still not publicly addressed emergency preparedness in Lake County specific to this transport.
PHMSA, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, announced that it will be seeking comment on vapor pressure thresholds of crude oil, and will evaluate the potential safety benefits of utilizing a threshold in regulating the transport of crude oil and other dangerous materials.
The petition directly addresses the fact that despite recent derailments of trains carrying crude that have resulted in extraordinary explosions and uncontrollable fires, there is no federal limit on the vapor pressure of crude oil transported by rail. This means that we have an opportunity to push for DEGASIFICATION (Stabilization) of the Bakken Oil, which would lower the vapor pressure of the oil, and make it less flammable.
The comment period ends at 11:59p, (ET), May 19th, 2017. Comments can be simple or detailed – all are beneficial. You simply need to fill in your contact information, and then you may copy some of the talking points below and paste them into this link and send.
At the present, explosive Bakken Oil trains jeopardize 25 million people across the country living within the Oil Train Blast Zone. There are densely populated areas, including our schools, throughout Chicagoland and its collar counties that are within feet from highly flammable train routes.
Degasifying or stabilizing crude oil is a process where the explosive hydrocarbon gases, (Butane, Propane, Ethane, and Methane), are removed from the oil and stored on site, then these gases can be sold to local markets, and the oil can be transported by rail or pipeline more safely. Degasification lowers the Vapor Pressure (PSI) of the crude oil.
North Dakota has mandated a Vapor PSI for Bakken oil of fewer than 13.7 lbs. It is generally reported as measuring between 11 and 12 lbs.
• Texas Eagle Ford frack oil has a Vapor PSI of 8 lbs.
• West Texas oil comes in at 3-4 lbs. PSI
• Gulf of Mexico oil is 3.33 lbs. PSI
• Bakken crude oil transported on the train that destroyed Lac Megantic, Quebec was measured at 10 PSI.
Our National Vapor Standard should fall between 4-8 lbs., following the lead of Texas since they have the longest history of degasifying oil, and their oil trains have not been exploding into uncontrolled fires upon derailment.
“Stabilization / Degasification” could make Bakken crude safer to transport, (vapor pressure is lowered from 13.7 psi to 6-8 psi with a 74 F flashpoint). Although there are no studies to support its effectiveness in rail transport safety, Texas has a long history of the use of mandated degasification/stabilization of crude oil for both rail transport and pipeline transport. Therefore, we can defer to their experience in this field.
Texas is the second largest area in the US with shale formations that are being fractured using horizontal drilling technology. There have been (zero) explosive fires after train derailments of Texas frack oil (8 PSI), whereas there have been dozens of explosive fires after derailments of trains carrying ND frack oil (13 PSI). Saudi Arabia has also been routinely stabilizing their oil before transport, for decades. The technology necessary for degasification/stabilization is well known and available in ND.
The PHMSA notice of rule-making follows a petition last year from New York’s Attorney General to implement nationwide a Reid Vapor Pressure of less than 9 PSI for crude oil transport by rail.
Politics are in play in the US, steering the Federal Government towards allowing more pipelines and away from oil by rail (VIEW: Desmog Blog article, Why Is the Exxon-Funded Heartland Institute Now Calling Oil Trains “Dangerously Flammable”?) – but pipelines should not be carrying explosive crude either. Texas mandated the degasification of its oil primarily for pipeline safety.
Please implement nationwide a Reid Vapor Pressure of 4-8 PSI for crude oil transport by rail and pipeline, which complies with the NY AG request of less than 9 PSI. Chicagoland and its collar counties have a vested interest in trying to decrease the dangers of these Bakken Oil trains to our densely populated communities!
Articles and Resources:
Federal agency looking at pressure limits on Bakken oil trains:
RON SCHALOW: Exploding Trains Aren’t Funny
Why Is the Exxon-Funded Heartland Institute Now Calling Oil Trains “Dangerously Flammable”?