Derailed BNSF Train Still Burning as Second Crash Catches FireThomas Black, Lynn Doan and Devin Banerjee
A Canadian National Railway Co. train carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire in northern Ontario, while a BNSF Railway Co. train carrying Bakken oil for Mercuria Energy Group Ltd. continued to burn in rural Illinois two days after it jumped the tracks.
Canadian National said on its website that the train derailed around 2:46 a.m. Saturday near Gogama, about 373 miles (600 kilometers) north of Toronto, with no injuries reported. Meanwhile, five of the BNSF train’s 105 cars remained on fire after Thursday’s derailment.
Several accidents, fires and explosions related to Bakken oil carried in rail cars over the past two years have spurred calls for tougher regulations. North Dakota required all operators to condition the crude to a lower vapor pressure beginning in April. A fiery oil-by-rail crash in Quebec killed 47 people in 2013, and last month a CSX Corp. train carrying Bakken crude derailed, sending up a fireball in West Virginia.
Saturday’s accident marks the second derailment of a Canadian National oil train in the area in three weeks. A train with 100 cars, all carrying crude from the oil-producing region of Alberta to eastern Canada, derailed Feb. 14 about 30 miles north of Gogama. Twenty-nine cars were involved and seven caught fire, a spokesman said at the time.
“An initial pool fire occurred that we believe impacted five rail cars and that fire continues to burn,” BNSF, a unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said Friday in a statement about the Illinois crash. “Local, state and BNSF Railway emergency personnel are on the scene working to contain the incident.”
Twenty-one of the train’s 105 cars, which include two sand cars as buffers, jumped the tracks Thursday afternoon near Galena, Illinois, about 160 miles west of Chicago. The U.S. Department of Transportation said 14 cars were in a pileup and half of those were punctured. Emergency responders evacuated a 1-mile radius, which contained six homes. No injuries have been reported.
Mercuria, a Cyprus-based commodity trader, owns the crude and was working with the railway to investigate the accident, Matt J. Lauer, a Mercuria spokesman, said by telephone from Geneva. The oil was loaded at Bakken Oil Express LLC’s terminal in Eland, North Dakota, Joe Shotwell, operations director at the complex, said by phone on Friday.
Mercuria was shipping the oil to Philadelphia Energy Solutions LLC’s refinery in Philadelphia, a person familiar with the situation said, while asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public. The company will work to fulfill the plant’s order with alternative supplies, the person said.
Philadelphia Energy Solutions spokeswoman Cherice Corley didn’t immediately respond to telephone and e-mailed requests for comment left after business hours. The company is a joint venture of Carlyle Group LP and Sunoco Inc., which was acquired by Energy Transfer Partners LP in October 2012.
Crude trains, which travel through crowded communities such as Chicago suburbs and New York state neighborhoods, have increased 40-fold since 2009 to 493,000 last year. Much of the crude originates in the Bakken because of insufficient pipelines to move the oil to refineries on the coasts.
Canadian oil will continue to be shipped by rail cars if pipelines, such as the Keystone XL line, aren’t built, the Canadian government has said. Some U.S. Republicans have cited the recent fiery derailments as an argument in favor of approving the divisive $8 billion Keystone proposal. The U.S. Senate on Wednesday failed to override President Barack Obama’s veto of a bill forcing approval of the U.S.-Canada oil link, a setback for Republicans who’ve made building it a legislative priority.
The BNSF tank cars involved in Thursday’s incident were the CPC-1232 model, the railroad said in an e-mail. The industry began making the CPC-1232 tank car at the end of 2011 to increase safety over more numerous, so-called legacy cars.
The Transportation Department is set to issue new regulations for a safer tank car and modifications that will be required for legacy cars. The current cars may be on the tracks for years because of the time it takes to upgrade or replace them. The department also is considering an electronic braking system that would stop each car separately and help keep them from piling up. Railroads oppose the new braking system because of the cost.
U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate oil futures for April delivery fell $1.15 on Friday to settle at $49.61 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.