The deadly rail accident in Quebec last month, blamed on the lack of proper application of hand brakes on a train carrying crude oil from North Dakota to Canada, has caused more news this week. According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration has issued a letter to the American Petroleum Institute citing problems with chemicals extracted through crude oil by hydraulic fracking.
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Hydraulic fracking is a process of forcing crude oil and natural gas reserves buried under layers of shale to the surface by a process of pumping chemicals, water, and sand underground. According to the letter from the Federal Railroad Administration, this process sometimes leaves the chemicals used in extraction process in the crude oil. This leads to higher levels of hazardous and corrosive materials in the oil, which is dangerous to haul by rail and could cause excessive corrosion in the rail cars used to transport it.
These issues came to light in the July crash in Quebec due to the abnormally intense flames caused by the crash, which reportedly shot up to 12 stories into the air, demolishing 40 buildings and killing 47 people. Canadian authorities are analyzing the remnants of the crash, hoping to determine the chemical compounds that contributed to the intensity of the explosion.
If the Federal Railroad Administration acts on these new concerns, it will be the second round of U.S. regulations enacted in response to the Canadian crash. The first round involved new regulations on securing parked trains that carry hazardous materials. Particularly, more than one employee has to help secure parked trains and employees responsible for securing trains must have a daily job briefing. Also, the agency increased the number of hand brakes for parked trains carrying hazardous materials.
Shale oil fracking has increased U.S. crude oil shipments by 443 percent since 2005, the highest level of U.S. oil production in over two decades. 75 percent of the oil gathered from North Dakota shale reserves are shipped by train, with the remainder carried by pipeline.
The American Petroleum Institute is a lobbying and standards group based in Washington, D.C. which works for the oi and gas industry. [/show_to]
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