The American Fuel & Petrochemical
trade group released findings on Thursday from a new and
comprehensive report that examines the characteristics of
Bakken crude oil and the standards required to transport by
The report results demonstrate that Bakken crude is well
within the safety standards for current rail car designs.
More specifically, Bakken crude is comparable to other light
crudes and does not pose risks that are significantly
different than other crudes or flammable liquids authorized
for rail transport.
In particular, Bakken crudes are well within the regulatory
limits for pressure, flashpoint, boiling point and
corrosivity for use in Department of Transportation (DOT)
approved rail cars.
AFPM says the data shows that the current classification of
Bakken crude oil is accurate and appropriate. Bakken crude
oil is designated as a flammable liquid under the Hazardous
Materials Regulations (HMR) and as such, is subject to
evaluation of its flashpoint and initial boiling point for
While Bakken crude and other light crudes may contain higher
amounts of dissolved flammable gases compared to some heavy
crude oils, the percentage of dissolved gases would not cause
Bakken crude to be transported under a DOT hazard class other
than Class 3 Flammable Liquid. Therefore, there is no need to
create a new DOT classification for crude oil transportation,
The maximum vapor pressure observed based on data collected
was 61% below the vapor pressure threshold limit for liquids
under the HMR; demonstrating that Bakken crude oil is
properly classified as a flammable liquid. Further, the
highest reported value was more than 90% below the maximum
pressure that DOT-111 rail cars were built to withstand.
The United States is very fortunate to be experiencing
an increase in domestic energy production and, as a result,
more crude oil is being shipped by rail. Although, the
transportation of crude oil by rail is extremely safe, we
strive to make continuous improvements and work toward a zero
incident rate, said AFPM president Charles T. Drevna.
Given the increase in rail transportation of crude oil,
particularly coming out of the Bakken region, questions have
been raised about the characteristics of Bakken crude oil
compared to oils from other areas, rail car standards and
rail infrastructure and operations.
This report was aimed at specifically addressing the
characteristics of Bakken crude and concludes that its
characteristics are no different than other light crude
oils, Drevna said. We believe this data will help
better inform the government as it reviews all aspects of the
safe transportation of crude by rail.
The report is based on a survey of AFPM members conducted in
response to information requested by the Department of
Transportation. In a letter to Cynthia Quarterman,
administrator of DOTs Pipeline and Hazardous Materials
Safety Administration (PHMSA) sent in late February, AFPM
confirmed that the process was underway to obtain the data
necessary to inform future regulatory actions.
AFPM members were surveyed to determine whether Bakken crude
oil poses substantially different transportation risks
compared to other crude oils transported by rail. In
addressing concerns raised by the DOT, data was collected
stemming from an analysis of approximately 1,400 samples of
Bakken crude oil in order to better understand its
Rail safety is a shared responsibility and AFPM and our
members are committed to doing our part," said Drevna. "But,
new specifications must be based in data showing the benefits
are real and that the new design will not adversely impact
our ability to provide the fuels and other products Americans
depend on every day."
In accordance with antitrust laws, the survey was conducted
and assembled by a third-party auditor to collect the data on
a confidential basis from 17 member companies. AFPM engaged a
former, long-time DOT official with an expertise in hazardous
material transportation safety to develop the final report.