Here in Texas, particularly in the Eagle Ford Shale and the Barnett Shale plays, increased truck traffic that is the byproduct of the booming oil and gas industry has caused headaches, damage and serious accidents on rural and large roadways. In North Dakota, where the Bakken field has led to a substantial boom in shale production, increased train traffic is causing similar problems. Train transport is used to move approximately two-thirds of North Dakota’s shale oil from the fields into production sites.
Residents of Casselton, North Dakota (just west of Fargo) were asked to evacuate the small town after one train carrying crude oil collided with another train that had previously derailed on the same track. The derailed 112-car train was transporting soybeans while the 106-car train was carrying crude. As many as 20 train cars caught fire after the train crash.
HazMat teams responded to the train crash, as did emergency personnel, but no injuries were reported. According to news outlets, there was a mid-train derailment that stopped the train carrying soybeans on the tracks.
This is the fourth oil-involved train crash in 2013. Earlier this year, more than 40 people were fatally injured when a train loaded with crude oil from the Bakken field production triggered an explosion in Quebec. The two other crude oil train crashes did not result in death.
The increased reliance on rail transportation by the oil and gas industry has been a boon to train systems, but explosive accidents like the recent North Dakota collision reignite debates on whether a static pipeline would be a safer alternative to rail cars. There are certainly reasons for an against either method of crude transport.
To learn more about the North Dakota crash, please see this Yahoo News piece: North Dakota town mostly evacuated after fiery oil train crash