Industry: N.D. oil no more volatile than others

2014-08-06T13:48:00Z 2014-08-06T16:41:04Z Industry: N.D. oil no more volatile than othersThe Associated Press The Associated Press
August 06, 2014 1:48 pm  • 

BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple intends to ask top U.S. energy and transportation officials about conflicting reports over the volatility of crude coming from the state's oil patch, he said Wednesday.

Dalrymple said he will question U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on a federal report when they're in Bismarck for a national energy policy conference on Friday.

The federal report, released earlier this year by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, says oil from North Dakota's prolific Bakken formation may be more flammable than other crudes. But a report funded by the North Dakota Petroleum Council and presented to the North Dakota Industrial Commission on Wednesday says Bakken oil is no more dangerous to transport by rail than other crudes and fuels.

Dalrymple chairs the commission that regulates the state's oil and gas industry, and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring are its other members. All three are Republican.

Oil trains in the U.S. and Canada were involved in at least eight major accidents during the last year, including an explosion in Lac-Megantic, Quebec that killed 47. Other trains carrying Bakken crude have since derailed and caught fire in Alabama, North Dakota, Virginia and New Brunswick.

The petroleum council, which represents more than 500 companies working in North Dakota's oil patch, commissioned the $400,000 study of Bakken crude characteristics. The group said more than 150 oil samples were taken from well sites and rail facilities and sent to independent laboratories for analyses.

The results show Bakken oil is similar to light crudes produced elsewhere in the United States, with characteristics that fall well within the margin of safety for the current tank car fleet, said Dennis Sutton, a consultant for Turner, Mason & Co., a Dallas-based engineering firm commissioned to conduct the industry study.

"We did not cherry-pick the data," Sutton said. "It's all out there for review."

Sutton said the federal report "provides no supporting evidence" that Bakken crude is more volatile than other types of crudes.

Gordon Delcambre Jr., a spokesman for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, said Wednesday that the agency sticks by its study.

"Our report came to the conclusion that crude from the Bakken region tended to be more volatile and flammable," he said. "We will continue to do more crude sampling and we will report those results as we get them."

Delcambre said the agency has not yet reviewed the industry report.

Stenehjem wondered if Bakken crude was being unfairly singled out by federal regulators because of the spate of fiery train accidents involving the North Dakota-produced oil.

"They really do seem to be picking on us," he said.

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