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North Dakota Town Evacuated Following Fiery Oil Train Derailment


#1

North Dakota Town Evacuated Following Fiery Oil Train Derailment

Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

The entire population of Heimdal, North Dakota has been evacuated Wednesday morning after a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded.

A BNSF Railway oil train derailed around 7:30 am, setting at least 10 oil tanker cars on fire. The Bismarck Tribune spoke with emergency responders who "said the the sky was black with smoke near the derailment site."


#2

If it has to happen North Dakota deserves it. They are supposed to have big profits from their exploding oil to help fix the carnage. In contrast other places that are bombed by these trains are left to fix themselves.


#3

Regulations? Who needs regulations ! ?

The market has determined that these train derailments are an acceptable part of doing business , leastways according to those buffoons that speak of that Invisible hand setting all right!

I wonder if THATS whats knocking them off the tracks.


#4

How long before one of these oil trains explodes in a populated area?


#6

Flying Spagetti Monster's noodley appendages are knocking the trains off their tracks. FSM has to remind us pesky protein sacks who's boss in this universe.


#7

Personally, I say the oil should be used where its mined. It shouldn't be transported at all whether by rail, pipeline or horsedrawn wagons. It would be safer if all that got transported was electricity down a wire or perhaps light down an optic fiber (does such technology exist?). It doesn't solve the problem of generating atmospheric carbon though.


#8

A small price to pay to ensure the energy needs of the American people.
kentshaw akpa dkshaw akpa dougshaw


#9

If the train burns in a low income urban neighborhood they will just call it urban renewal.


#10

The President (insert name of president from either party) has issued the following statement:
My fellow Americans: I am sorry for this terrible explosion. Please prepare for more accidents of this kind. That is all.


#11

I suspect there are several answers about the "cause". First of all, US track is horrid, sort of 1870 sort of stuff. The rest of the world installs concrete sleepers (ties). Wood is just not strong enough for these loads. This turns out to be "gauge" issues, like the 4 ft 8.5 inch distance becomes 4 ft 10 inches, or something. Second, these trains are very long, 120 cars. Each coupler has a loose fit, like one inch between open and closed. So, in a 120 car train the train is 120 inches longer when it is being pulled, compared to if it were being pushed. The forces that can happen are huge, large enough to tear apart the tank cars. And then the stuff they ship is a viscous goo, sort of black tar. If this gets cold, it will only flow very slowly from the tank. So the "oils" add gases, like propane, to dissolve in the ooze and get the viscosity lowered. Pictures show the propane exploding pretty clearly. So, ancient, obsolete rail system, very long trains that, if not very carefully managed, create shock waves that break the tanks, and very flammable additives needed to make the stuff shippable. During "start" the back set of diesel locos are supposed to "close the train" by shoving from the rear, and then, when closed, the front engines chug. Very tricky sort of engine driving. In all fairness, BNSF is upgrading track, but there is very much track to upgrade. To be sure, they will do the "main line" first. Sort of a long answer. Bet those guys at UPS could come up with something.


#12

if they handed out packages of ballpark franks ..they could call it a barb q.


#16

Lac-MĂ©gantic, July 2013, 47 dead.


#17

Kind of like the photo depicting Dubya sport fishing on a boat as he surveyed New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina-caused flooding.


#18

In addition to track and operating factors, the Bakken crude is more volatile than crude from most other North American sources, making the risk of catching fire much higher.

When I lived in Bakersfield California during the 1980s a daily mile long crude oil train had, for many years, been traveling over the 4,000' elevation Tehachapi Pass to be refined in the Los Angeles area. Although the Tehachapi route is one of the most challenging stretches of railroad in the US I don't recall any serious incidents. I don't know if they still run the crude trains there.


#19

Railroads are regularly asking for fewer and fewer train crew members on the trains. At some point our Bakken Bombers will have morphed into drones.

In only slightly related climate news, the hurricane season is getting forcibly extended. There's a 60% chance of a tropical storm forming off the coast of Florida within the next 48 hours, according to the National Weather Service. The official hurricane season begins on June 1 but climate change is changing all of that. See: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/


#20

Didn't know that they were adding propane, but that sounds right. There is a lot of rail in this area, and as long as I can remember derailments were only occasional. In the photo, if those are the new cars they seem to have a longer wheel-base than many older tankers. A lot of other freight still moves by rail; do we not hear about derailments there because nothing blows up, or is there some statistical basis for the perception that these oil trains have a propensity for derailing? Trying to run at design speed when the trackage isn't up to design specs?


#21

How many times does this sort of disaster have to happen before we realize that cargoing oil on trains is a really bad idea.


#23

Lynchburg, VA. There are many of these explosions. More than I know in populated areas. They are running them through the city of Sacramento where I live past schools and hospitals. I am very afraid of them.


#24

OldDutch;
Having been around railroads most of my life, including over 20 years working for a couple of them, part of that as operating train crew, I have to take issue with your assertion that the physical condition of the Rights of Way have gotten worse in the past 30 or so years. I remember a lot more grass growing in the ballast in the '80's, when the freight railroads were having a lot of hard times. The past 15-20 years have seen record growth in business and profits, with all of the seven major carriers investing billions in their infrastructure over that time period. Hardwood ties have been used safely here for well over 100 years, and if replaced in a timely fashion are not a major issue. In Europe, there is far more passenger traffic than freight on most lines, at much higher speeds generally, so concrete sleepers might make more sense. The top legal speed on most railroads in this country is 79 mph (usually lower). Just about every freight locomotive I've been on has a posted operating speed limit of 70 mph. I think what may be going on is the law of averages - that is there is going to be X number of accidents every so many ton-miles of travel, and the rapid growth of traffic has taken us to those points more frequently in recent years. The Federal Railroad Administration reported earlier this year that from November of '13 to Nov. of '14 there were 63 broken rail related accidents in the U. S. That would be one about every 6 days. That is just incidents related to broken rail (more likely to happen due to sudden temperature changes). This does not include other physical, mechanical or human factor causes.

I can't argue that the Bakken crude may be more dangerous to ship that other lighter crudes. However, I can and will argue that as long as this stuff is being shipped (the real answer is developing alternative energy sources that would allow us to leave this stuff in the ground), rail is preferable to most other forms, especially highway, where trucks getting tangled up with auto traffic would probably lead to worse disasters. At least when tank cars derail, there is usually a limited amount of spillage, a ruptured pipeline often leaks thousand of barrels before it is discovered and closed.


#26

What kind of comment is this Lilith? ND deserves this?? One of the guidelines for comments here is one of respect for others... So these folks in this ND hamlet 'deserve' this catastrophe ?