BNSF Train Derailment Threatens to Delay Bakken Oil Deliveries

A BNSF Railway Co. train that derailed and blocked tracks in North Dakota may delay crude deliveries by as many as two days from the second-largest onshore oil producing state in the U.S.

Eleven cars carrying corn derailed yesterday while switching tracks at Ross, North Dakota, said Steven Forsberg, a spokesman for BNSF in Fort Worth, Texas. Customers may see delays of 36 to 48 hours, the company said. The main track may reopen at 1 p.m. local time today, BNSF said on its website.

“They’re dealing with extremely cold weather there, so we have to go to winter safety protocols,” Forsberg said. “There’s a limit on how long you can have people out there in severe wind chill. They end up working in shorter shifts.”

North Dakota relies on railways to transport its crude, and the type of oil pumped from shale formations in the state may be more flammable and therefore more dangerous to ship by train than crudes from other areas. Last month, a BNSF train caught fire after a collision, leading to explosions and prompting evacuations near Casselton, North Dakota.

The potential delays due to yesterday’s derailment “apply to all trains that would use that route” and not just those carrying oil, Forsberg said. Most of the trains affected don’t originate in North Dakota and are moving between the U.S. Pacific Northwest and Midwest, he said.

BNSF customers load an average of nine crude-oil trains daily across the company’s network of railways in production basins stretching from North Dakota to Colorado to Texas, according to Forsberg.

One unit train can haul at least 78,000 barrels of crude produced in the Bakken formation, which is along the northwest section of North Dakota and eastern Montana, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

U.S. benchmark oil West Texas Intermediate for March delivery was trading up 21 cents at $97.53 a barrel at 1:24 p.m. Singapore time.

Bakken crude for delivery at Clearbrook, Minnesota, was unchanged against WTI yesterday at a discount of $2.30 a barrel, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

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