Pipelines Spill Three Times as Much Oil as Trains, IEA Says

Pipelines in North America spilled three times as much crude oil as trains for comparative distances over an eight-year period, the International Energy Agency said today in a study it based on U.S. Department of Transportation data.

The Paris-based energy adviser also said that the risk of a train spill was six times greater than a pipeline incident over the period between 2004 and 2012.

“Increasing volumes of crude oil transported by rail raise questions of safety,” the IEA said in its medium-term oil market report. “Our analysis reveals that compared to pipelines, rail incident rates are higher while the opposite holds for spill rates.”

The calculation included an estimate that the average load of crude carried by train travels 1,000 miles, which the organization said is conservative, since most Bakken crude is shipped 1,700 miles from North Dakota to St. James, Louisiana.

The analysis of the eight-year period didn’t include a spill of 715 barrels of crude from a derailment in Minnesota in 2013 that was more than double the amount spilled by trains in the previous four years, according to the report.

The findings come after another analysis released last month by the Association of American Railroads said trains had a lower oil-spill rate than pipelines between 2002 and 2012.

The group said that first-quarter figures imply that the volume of crude shipped by rail in the United States is about 680,000 barrels a day, or almost 10 percent of total production.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eliot Caroom in New York at ecaroom@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at dstets@bloomberg.net

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