North Dakota Crude Burns in Alabama After Train Derailment

A train carrying North Dakota crude to the Gulf Coast derailed in rural Alabama, touching off rail car fires that will be allowed to burn themselves out.

No injuries were reported in the accident, which took place in a year in which several crude-oil trains derailed in the U.S. and Canada, including the accident that set off a deadly blast in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic in July. Rail shipments of domestic oil, particularly North Dakota’s Bakken grade, climbed in recent years with growing production.

Part of the 90-car, three-locomotive unit train derailed shortly before 1 a.m. local time, Michael Williams, a spokesman for Genesee & Wyoming Inc., which owns the Alabama & Gulf Coast Railway, said in a statement on the company’s website today. Eleven cars were believed to be on fire, and emergency crews decided to let them burn, the website said.

The train was en route from Amory, Mississippi, to Walnut Hill, Florida, Genesee & Wyoming said. It was carrying sweet North Dakota crude, according to Don Hartley, a regional Alabama emergency management official.

“I would imagine this line is going to be closed for a couple of days at least,” Hartley said by phone, adding that some traffic may be re-routed in the interim.

The National Transportation Safety Board isn’t sending investigators, Kelly Nantel, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

Genesis Terminal

The train was to deliver crude to Genesis Energy LP’s terminal in Walnut Hill, said Bob Deere, chief financial officer. Operations at the terminal won’t be affected because the company will bring in shipments over other rail lines, he said by phone from Houston today.

The largest U.S. railroads hauled 93,312 carloads of crude oil in the third quarter, the most recent period for which statistics were available, according to the Association of American Railroads. That’s an increase of 44.3 percent from the same period a year before, and a decline of 14.1 percent from the second quarter, the group said.

The July 6 derailment of a train carrying 72 cars of crude oil in Lac-Megantic, which killed 47 people, led to increased scrutiny of the safety of moving crude oil by rail. Regulators in Canada and the U.S. imposed new requirements, including stricter labeling rules, and sought to make tank cars less prone to rupture.

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