Government warns about flammability of Bakken crude

A division of the federal Department of Transportation has issued a safety alert saying that Bakken crude oil may be more flammable and hazardous than other grades of oil. The alert, issued Thursday by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, comes after another rail car explosion of a train carrying Bakken crude.

The latest explosion occurred near Casselton, N.D., and sent a fireball hundreds of feet in the air and caused the partial evacuation of the town.

The safety alert says crude oil is inconsistent in its properties and advises shippers and those offering the product to test for variations. It also advises emergency responders to be alert to the risks of crude oil transportation due to the increased volume of transportation and the wide range of crude oil properties.

The government says it is reinforcing the requirement to properly test, characterize, classify all crude oil constituent properties including corrosivity and gas and sulfur content. The advisory is a follow-up to the PHMSA and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) joint safety advisory published last Nov. 20.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration stresses to shippers the importance of appropriate classification, whether the shipment is in a cargo tank or rail tank car, or by other mode of transportation.

As part of ongoing investigative efforts, PHMSA and FRA initiated “Operation Classification,” a compliance initiative involving unannounced inspections and testing of crude oil samples.


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