Category Archives: Oil spill

Train derailment: 230,000 gallons of crude oil released into Iowa floodwaters

Repost from the Des Moines Register

230,000 gallons of crude released into floodwaters after train derailment, railroad says

Associated Press, 4:59 p.m. CT June 23, 2018


DOON, Iowa — A railroad official says 14 of 32 derailed oil tanker cars in the northwest corner of Iowa dumped an estimated 230,000 gallons of crude oil into floodwaters, with some making its way to nearby rivers.

BNSF spokesman Andy Williams confirmed the details Saturday. He said that nearly half the spill had been contained with booms near the derailment site and an additional boom placed approximately 5 miles downstream. Williams had earlier said that 33 oil cars derailed.

Williams said that oil will be removed from that containment site with equipment to separate the oil from the water.

The railroad will focus on environmental recovery. Williams said “ongoing monitoring is occurring for any potential conditions that could impact workers and the community and, so far, have found no levels of concern.”

The train derailed early Friday just south of Doon in Lyon County, leaking oil into surrounding floodwaters from the swollen Little Rock River.

Crews work to clean up cars from the BNSF railway afterSome officials have speculated that floodwaters eroded soil beneath the train track. The nearby Little Rock River rose rapidly after heavy rain Wednesday and Thursday.

Within hours of the derailment, BNSF had brought in dozens of semitrailers loaded with equipment to clean up the spill, including containment booms, skimmers and vacuum trucks.

“We are working as quickly as we can to get this cleaned up,” Williams said Saturday. “We’ve had skimmers working since yesterday on the floodwater south of the site.”

A major part of that work includes building a temporary road parallel to the tracks to allow in cranes that can remove the derailed and partially-submerged oil cars. Williams said officials hoped to reach the cars by sometime Saturday afternoon.

The train was carrying tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to Stroud, Oklahoma, for ConocoPhillips. ConocoPhillips spokesman Daren Beaudo said each tanker can hold more than 25,000 gallons of oil.

Beaudo also did not know whether the derailed oil cars were the safer, newer tankers intended to help prevent leaks in the event of an accident.

“We lease those cars and are in the process of verifying with the owners the exact rail car specifications,” Beaudo said in an email.

Gov. Kim Reynolds was set to visit the derailment site Saturday afternoon as part of a tour of areas hit by recent flooding.

The derailment also caused concern downstream, including as far south as Omaha, Nebraska, about 150 miles from the derailment site. The spill reached the Rock River, which joins the Big Sioux River before merging into the Missouri River at Sioux City.

Omaha’s public water utility — Metropolitan Utilities District — said it was monitoring pumps it uses to pull drinking water from the Missouri River.

Rock Valley, just southwest of the derailment, shut off its water wells within hours of the accident. It plans to drain and clean its wells and use a rural water system until testing shows its water is safe.

    Washington: New rule requires railroads to show they can handle oil spills

    Repost from the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA
    [Editor: Significant quote: “…California and Minnesota have implemented similar laws for railroads.”  – RS]

    Washington: Railroads must show they can handle oil spills

    By the Associated Press, September 1, 2016 2:16 PM

    HIGHLIGHTS
    Washington’s Department of Ecology has adopted a new rule requiring that railroads shipping oil through the state demonstrate that they can immediately respond to any spills.

    FILE - This June 6, 2016, file aerial video image taken from a drone shows crumpled oil tankers lying beside the railroad tracks after a fiery June 3 train derailment that prompted evacuations from the tiny Columbia River Gorge town of Mosier, Ore. Federal investigators on Thursday, June 23, 2016, blamed Union Pacific Railroad for the derailment along the Oregon-Washington border, saying the company failed to properly maintain its track. Preliminary findings on the derailment raise questions about why the company didn't find the broken bolts that triggered the wreck when it inspected the tracks right before the derailment.
    FILE – This June 6, 2016, file aerial video image taken from a drone shows crumpled oil tankers lying beside the railroad tracks after a fiery June 3 train derailment that prompted evacuations from the tiny Columbia River Gorge town of Mosier, Ore. Federal investigators on Thursday, June 23, 2016, blamed Union Pacific Railroad for the derailment along the Oregon-Washington border, saying the company failed to properly maintain its track. Preliminary findings on the derailment raise questions about why the company didn’t find the broken bolts that triggered the wreck when it inspected the tracks right before the derailment. Brent Foster AP

    OLYMPIA, WASH.  |  Washington’s Department of Ecology has adopted a new rule requiring that railroads shipping oil through the state demonstrate that they can immediately respond to any spills.

    The department said Thursday the rule takes effect Oct. 1, and it brings railroads into line with rules for companies moving oil by pipeline and by vessel.

    Railroads will have to provide Ecology with contingency plans detailing steps the railroad will take if oil spills or a substantial risk of a spill occurs during transport. Officials say they’ll review each plan and require that they be tested through appropriate drills.

    The state says California and Minnesota have implemented similar laws for railroads.

    This fall, Washington is also beginning to require that facilities receiving shipments of crude oil by rail notify Ecology, which will share notice of those plans with local first responders.

      KQED: Oil train traffic is down by more than half — for market reasons

      Repost from KQED Marketplace

      Oil train traffic is down — for market reasons

      By Jed Kim, August 24, 2016 | 11:12 AM
      At its peak, in October 2014, trains leaving the Bakken region of North Dakota moved more than 29 million barrels. – FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

      Oil and its downstream products enable most transportation methods, from the gas in automobile tanks to the rubber in shoes. For oil itself, however, there are only a few methods of movement, and each is controversial. In the U.S., one method that saw a recent boom is now on the decline.

      Shale oil pumped in recent years from the Bakken region in North Dakota ramped up production and availability faster than pipelines could be built. Trains filled in the gap in the meantime. At its peak, in October 2014, trains moved more than 29 million barrels.

      The most recent data from the Energy Information Administration shows that the amount of oil shipped by rail has fallen dramatically since.

      “Within the U.S., we’re moving about 12 million barrels in May, and that compares with last May – the intermovements within the U.S. was 26 million barrels,” said Arup Mallik, an industry economist at the Energy Information Administration.

      Several factors have contributed to the more-than-half decline in shipments. One is that the price of U.S. oil has risen to more closely match global prices. That has reduced the amount of oil being purchased and shipped to refineries.

      Low global oil prices, meanwhile, have stifled production, thus reducing the amount of oil needing to be moved.

      While those factors have led to a temporary reduction in the need for crude-by-rail shipping, the completion of additional pipeline infrastructure around the country has made more of a permanent change.

      “New pipelines are still getting built, further pushing down the need for crude-by-rail,” said Adam Bedard, CEO of ARB Midstream, a company that invests in pipelines and rail facilities.

      Bedard said the biggest impact to crude-by-rail shipments may come later this year, if construction is completed on the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would move oil east into Chicago.

      “Those barrels will have to come from somewhere, and it is our view that a lot of those barrels will come from crude by rail,” Bedard said. “The Dakota Access Pipeline can move up to 450,000 barrels a day.”

      In May, the total amount of oil moved by trains in the entire U.S. was 470,000 barrels a day.

      The future of that pipeline is being decided. Protests have temporarily halted construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, partly because of concerns for the safety of drinking water.

      Safety issues plague perception of crude-by-rail as well. In the past four years, there have been a dozen significant derailments of trains carrying crude oil in the U.S., spilling more than 1.5 million gallons, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

      Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, said his organization is fighting to reduce or eliminate the traffic traveling through the Pacific Northwest. An oil train derailed in Mosier, Oregon, in June, spilling an undetermined amount of crude.

      “We think oil trains are dangerous,” said VandenHeuvel. “We’ve seen explosions very close to our homes here on the Columbia River and have watched explosions and derailments all over the nation, and we think it’s not a safe way to transport oil.”

      The overall decline of oil train traffic in the U.S. doesn’t extend to his region, as the network of pipelines on the West Coast is largely isolated from the rest of the country. Trains are necessary. Canada, as well, is expected to see an increase in crude-by-rail because it lacks comparable pipeline infrastructure.

      VandenHeuvel said his organization will work to keep more terminals from being constructed that would bring in more rail traffic. He said he’s concerned more will come if oil prices rise again.

      “You know, that number could ramp back up as production increases,” VandenHeuvel said.

      Jed Kim
      Jed Kim is a reporter for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk. He focuses on issues of climate change, conservation, energy and environmental justice.  Prior to joining Marketplace in April 2016, Jed was an environment reporter at KPCC public radio…