Just another oil train derails, catches fire — let it burn, baby, burn!

A BNSF Railway train loaded with crude oil derailed and caught fire on Thursday afternoon in a rural area south of Galena, Illinois, according to local officials and the company.

The incident marks the latest in a series of derailments in North America and the third in three weeks involving trains hauling crude oil, which has put a heightened focus on rail safety.

Dark smoke was seen for miles around the crash site, and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency told local WREX.com that two of the cars were potentially on fire. Images posted online by Dubuque Scanner showed flames several hundred feet high, while aerial footage showed the wreck spread across two sets of track.

The train with 105 loaded cars – 103 of them carrying crude oil – derailed around 1:20 p.m. CST (1920 GMT), according to a BNSF statement. The incident occurred on what appears to be a major rail line alongside the Mississippi River that handles as many as 50 oil-trains a week…

BNSF said there were no reported injuries and no evacuations…Eight cars derailed…six of which had tumbled onto their side…

It was also not immediately clear where the train originated or where it was heading. Chicago, which is 160 miles east, is a major rail hub for shipments from both North Dakota and Canada’s oil sands. It was unclear if the train’s tank cars were older models widely criticized for being prone to puncture during accidents.

About 40 to 50 oil trains come through the area each week…The accident is just the latest involving oil trains in the United States and Canada.

State and federal bureaucrats are predictable as ever. Everything is under control. Which means no one was killed, this time.

That’s probably what it will take to get qualitative change in safety requirements – for the rail cars, train speeds vs. quality of roadbed and rail standards. Face it, folks. Most of these systems haven’t been upgraded in a half-century. After John Wayne and Walt Disney finished winning World War 2 – our government was so thoroughly owned by the Detroit auto industry and fossil fuel producers that consideration of upgrading rail transit for people and products was a non-starter.

People forget we had a cabinet officer named Charles Wilson, former CEO of GM who famously said, “what was good for our country was good for General Motors – and vice versa”.

6 thoughts on “Just another oil train derails, catches fire — let it burn, baby, burn!

  1. ricodilello says:

    I guess we will have to wait until more people are killed before more pipelines are built. We will also have to wait a long time until fusel fuels are replaced by solar & wind power.

    • Safety last says:

      “Keystone isn’t the only pipeline proposal out there : As XL languishes in political controversy, new pipeline projects gain ground in Canada and Alaska.” http://www.hcn.org/articles/keystone-isnt-the-only-pipeline-proposal-out-there Carl Weimer, director of Bellingham-based nonprofit Pipeline Safety Trust, thinks that the intense focus on Keystone has taken the wind out of conversations around safety issues {link} at the 2.5 million miles of already-existing pipelines as well as for the new ones being proposed. “In the past, pipeline safety has been pretty bipartisan,” Weimer says. But Keystone has polarized the discussion. “Either you’re for oil or against it,” he added.
      Now, Weimer says, the rest of the safety discussions are being lumped into the Keystone debate, stalling the kind of progress that could have prevented accidents {link} like the recent spill from an oil pipeline in the Yellowstone River. Plus, all the talk of pipelines being safer than oil trains misses the bigger point, Weimer says: Without stronger regulations requiring, for instance, better placement of valves and more robust leak detection methods, more pipelines won’t necessarily mean safer oil transport.

  2. Mike23 says:

    “On Fox, A Train Spilling Oil Is An Argument For Keystone XL, But A Pipeline Spill Isn’t News” http://mediamatters.org/research/2015/02/20/on-fox-a-train-spilling-oil-is-an-argument-for/202601
    “Oil by rail or pipelines? A false choice.” http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/energy-environment/219916-oil-by-rail-or-pipelines-a-false-choice
    Mind boggling: “A Hard Look At The Risks Of Transporting Oil On Rail Tanker Cars” (NPR 2/25/15 http://www.npr.org/2015/02/25/389008046/a-hard-look-at-the-risks-of-transporting-oil-on-rail-tanker-cars ) investigative reporter Marcus Stern spent the past year looking into the risks of transporting oil on rail tanker cars, a practice which has expanded dramatically in the past eight years. His stories focus in particular on how regulators have responded, or failed to, following the tragedy in Canada. Marcus Stern won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for his investigation of San Diego Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham. His reporting on the risks of rail transportation of crude oil was a joint effort of the environmental website InsideClimate News (Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting) and The Weather Channel. See also “Boom: America’s Explosive Oil-by-Rail Problem.” at http://books.insideclimatenews.org/boom and Video at http://insideclimatenews.org/video/boom-north-americas-explosive-oil-rail-problem

  3. Nother1 says:

    “New ‘bomb train’ rules welcomed with a bang” http://america.aljazeera.com/blogs/scrutineer/2015/5/6/new-bomb-train-rules-go-boom.html “On Friday, the Department of Transportation quietly rolled out new rules for shipping volatile crude oil across United States rail lines, but Wednesday, yet another reminder of the urgent importance of new regulation hit a central North Dakota town with a bang.
    The small town of Heimdal, 80 miles southeast of Minot, was evacuated after a train carrying crude oil derailed at about 7:30 a.m. local time, and ten cars burst into flames, according to the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services. The fire is reportedly so intense, no one can get within an eighth of a mile of the accident.
    The train, operated by BNSF, was made up of 107 oil cars, and two buffer cars filled with sand between the crude and the locomotives. The North Dakota NBC TV affiliate reported a rail company spokeswoman said the type of tanker cars in the derailment are unjacketed CPC-1232s.
    …The “industry lobbying made them flinch,” wrote Todd Paglia, executive director of environmental watchdog ForestEthics, after the new rules were released, but before today’s North Dakota accident. “The administration failed to learn the lessons of Lac Megantic or the four explosive oil train accidents we’ve seen so far in 2015.”

    • Casey says:

      While Heimdal did have to be evacuated after Wednesday morning’s derailment and fire and no injuries were reported, it’s interesting to note that the train was traveling at just 24 miles per hour when it derailed, about half the 50 mph maximum speed U.S. regulations allow.
      The oil in the train had also been conditioned to meet requirements of North Dakota law that butane, propane and other volatile gases be stripped from the oil prior to shipping to lower the vapor pressure of the oil, which lessens the likelihood of an explosion.
      Also the vapor pressure of the oil on the derailed train was vapor pressure of 10.8 pounds per square inch, lower than the 13.7 pounds per square inch maximum under the state standard. http://trib.com/business/energy/oil-company-shipment-in-north-dakota-train-derailment-had-been/article_072d1cf4-b5a2-5051-b435-bfc92faa5a8f.html

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