Tag Archives: Mississippi

West Virginia fireball – fourth pipeline accident this month

Repost from Think Progress

Pipeline Explodes In West Virginia, Sends Fireball Shooting Hundreds Of Feet In The Air

 By Emily Atkin, January 27, 2015

A gas pipeline in Brooke County, West Virginia exploded into a ball of flames on Monday morning, marking the fourth major mishap at a U.S. pipeline this month.

No one was hurt in the explosion, but residents told the local WTRF 7 news station that they could see a massive fireball shooting hundreds of feet into the air. An emergency dispatcher reportedly told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the flames had melted the siding off one home and damaged at least one power line. The gas pipeline is owned by Houston, Texas-based The Enterprise Products, L.P., which said Monday evening that it is investigating the cause of the explosion.

The West Virginia explosion is the fourth in a string of news-making pipeline incidents this month. Earlier this month, a gas pipeline in Mississippi operated by GulfSouth Pipeline exploded, rattling residents’ windows and causing a smoke plume large enough to register on National Weather Service radar screens. On Jan. 17, a pipeline owned by Bridger Pipeline LLC in Montana spilled up to 50,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River, a spill that left thousands of Montanans without drinkable tap water. Just a few days later, on Jan. 22, it was discovered that 3 million gallons of saltwater drilling waste had spilled from a North Dakota pipeline earlier in the month. That spill was widely deemed the state’s largest contaminant release into the environment since the North Dakota oil boom began.

Here’s some footage of Monday’s explosion’s resulting fire, via WTRF 7.

The four incidents come while American lawmakers are entrenched in debate whether the controversial Keystone XL pipeline — a proposed 1,700-mile line that would bring up to 860,000 barrels of Canadian tar sands crude oil down to Texas and Louisiana refineries every day — is in the national interest.

One of arguments most often made by environmentalists against the pipeline is that, if a spill were to occur from Keystone XL, it would be harder to clean up than a spill from a conventional oil or gas pipeline. Canadian tar sands oil is thicker and more sludgy than regular oil, and does not float on top of water like conventional crude. Instead, it gradually sinks to the bottom. Environmentalists are particularly concerned about the fact that Keystone XL would pass over the Ogallala aquifer, Nebraska’s primary source of drinking water. Nebraska’s state Department of Environmental Quality has said that a spill in or around the aquifer would only affect local, not regional water sources.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has already passed a bill approving Keystone XL’s construction, and the Senate is expected to pass an identical bill this week, though it has come up against unexpected procedural hurdles. President Obama has pledged to veto the bill.

Safety board chairman says oil train dangers extend beyond crude from the Bakken

Repost from The Associated Press

APNewsBreak: Oil train dangers extend past Bakken

By Matthew Brown, Associated Press, Jun 26, 2014
AP Photo
AP Photo/Matt Brown

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The dangers posed by a spike in oil shipments by rail extend beyond crude from the booming Bakken region of the Northern Plains and include oil produced elsewhere in the U.S. and Canada, U.S. safety officials and lawmakers said.

Acting National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher Hart said all crude shipments are flammable and can damage the environment – not just the Bakken shipments involved in a series of fiery accidents.

Hart cited recent derailments in Mississippi, Minnesota, New Brunswick and Pennsylvania of oil shipments from Canada. He said those cases exemplify “the risks to communities and for the environment for accidents involving non-Bakken crude oil.”

Hart’s comments were contained in a letter to U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley obtained by The Associated Press. They add to growing pressure on federal regulators to improve oil train safety in the wake of repeated derailments, including in Lac-Magentic, Quebec, where 47 people were killed in a massive conflagration last July.

Citing the highly volatile nature of Bakken oil, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx last month ordered railroads to notify states of shipments from the region so firefighters and first responders can better prepare for accidents.

But Wyden and Merkley told Foxx on Thursday that the order leaves emergency personnel in the dark on oil shipped from outside the Bakken region.

The Oregon Democrats urged Foxx to expand his order to cover crude from all parts of the U.S. and Canada. They also pressed for the 1 million-gallon minimum threshold in Foxx’s order to be lowered to include smaller shipments.

“With the exception of the Lac-Megantic accident, every accident involving crude oil, ethanol and other flammable materials since 2006 has resulted in a hazardous materials release of less than 1,000,000 gallons,” Wyden and Merkley wrote to Foxx in a letter.

They said the derailments cited by the transportation safety board show that trains carrying non-Bakken crude or less than 1 million gallons pose the same “imminent hazard” that Foxx has asserted for Bakken oil.

Bakken oil on average travels more than 1,600 miles to reach its destination, transportation officials said. That’s much further than oil from some other parts of the country.

U.S. transportation officials said the lengthier journey increases the overall risk exposure for Bakken oil – and is one reason it’s being treated differently than other hazardous cargos.

Representatives of the oil industry and officials in North Dakota also have complained about Bakken oil being singled out by regulators – although for opposite reasons. The American Petroleum Institute and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers have argued Bakken oil is no more volatile than other light, sweet crudes.

The concerns aired Thursday by the NTSB and Oregon senators essentially flip that argument on its head, to say different types of crude and other hazardous liquids such as ethanol also pose a significant safety risk.

“Accidents involving crude oil or flammable liquids of any kind, especially when these liquids are transported in large volumes, such as in unit trains or blocks of tank cars, can have disastrous consequences,” Hart said.

Association of American Railroads spokeswoman Holly Arthur said the rail industry is complying with Foxx’s original order. She said the group would have to see the specifics of any proposed changes before commenting further.

About 700,000 barrels of oil a day – enough to fill 10 “unit trains” of 100 tank cars each – is coming out of the Bakken by rail, according to the North Dakota Pipeline Authority. That’s about 70 percent of crude-by-rail shipments nationwide, according to federal officials.

Yet the same hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – technology that has helped drive the boom in the Bakken region during the past decade is being employed on shale oil fields elsewhere. Crude from the tar sands of western Canada is also fueling the surge in North American production.

Charles Drevna, president of American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, said he supports getting more information on oil trains to first responders so they’re ready for potential accidents.

According to an analysis done for the U.S. State Department, more than half the loading capacity of oil train facilities built in recent years is in parts of the U.S. and Canada outside the Bakken region. That includes loading terminals in Colorado, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah and parts of western Canada.

Offloading crude oil unit train causes terrible smells

Repost from The Natchez Democrat

Pungent odor has company holding nose

By Vershal Hogan  |  April 26, 2014

NATCHEZ — A spokeswoman for Genesis Energy said the company is looking into what may have made a delivery of crude oil to its Natchez terminal last week particularly malodorous.

Genesis operates a crude oil unloading facility in the Natchez-Adams County Port. Unit trains — that is, large transport trains — bring the oil to the port area, where Genesis loads it onto barges destined for the Gulf Coast refinery markets.

When a train was unloaded April 19, the crude oil was unusually smelly, and the smell was logged at the Adams County Sheriff’s Office as a hazardous materials incident, and the Natchez Fire Department responded to the area.

“We are looking into what caused it, because it was a little more noticeable than normal, and we are looking into ways to mitigate it in the future,” Genesis Spokeswoman Jennifer Stewart said.

Stewart said the smell was that of an intensified odor associated with crude oil, while Natchez Fire Chief Oliver Stewart said fire crews were looking for a natural gas leak based on the smell.

Chief Stewart said in addition to the fire department, Atmos Energy, which is also located in the port area, helped with the hunt for the smell with its leak-detecting equipment, he said.

Gene Perkins, who lives in the area, likewise said he smelled natural gas associated with the train. Perkins said last Saturday was not the only time that has occurred.

“The smell is so strong sometimes we get to where we can’t go outside,” he said.

“I am not trying to cause any problems for anybody. I would just like for the smell to go away.”

Perkins said based on conversations he has had with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, he believes the odor is associated with the cleaning of the tanks Genesis unloads.

Jennifer Stewart said that’s not the case because Genesis doesn’t clean the tanks in Natchez.

“They are unloaded, and then they are sent back to where they came from,” she said.

“We are strictly an unloading and loading facility.”

Jennifer Stewart said Genesis does not use any chemicals that smell like natural gas at the Natchez facility, but does use some natural gas in its operations.