Annotated Reference List of Crude-By-Rail Articles – January 21-2014

Posted: January 12, 2014 in Rail Transport of Oil
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
If the Valero Benicia proposal is approved, 100 oil cars a day will pass through Davis like these tank cars photographed on 2nd St. on Jan. 9, 2013.

If the Valero Benicia proposal is approved, 100 oil cars a day will pass through Davis like these tank cars photographed on 2nd St. on Jan. 9, 2013.

In recent months, tank cars of oil can be spotted moving along the Davis rails and sometimes parked, though many of the full trainloads move through at night. The tank cars (each 60 feet long) are destined for the five oil refineries in the Bay Area (1. Valero in Benicia, 2. Tesoro Golden Eagle in Avon, 3. Shell in Martinez, 4. Phillips 66 in Rodeo, and 5. Chevron in Richmond), depending on what product they contain.

The trains travel from the hub in Roseville, through Sac, West Sac, across the Yolo Causeway and the Yolo Basin Wildlife Preserve to Davis, Dixon and Suisun then across the protected Suisun Marsh to Benicia and on to the other refineries. Some BNSF trains may travel from Sacramento to Bakersfield to Tracy to the Bay Area.

A few clarifications from a contact in the Sacramento Office of Rail Spill Prevention and Response: The vast majority of the crude by rail in CA is going to be from the Bakken Shale formation in North Dakota. This is very different from Canadian tar sands oil from Alberta. Bakken oil is extremely high quality and apparently quite flammable (based on the Lac-Megantic, Quebec experience and other accidents since; see articles below). Tar sands oil is low grade, like tar. The same refinery cannot handle both– it’s one or the other. The refineries that handle Alaskan and foreign oil (mostly Saudi) will switch to Bakken. The ones that handle California-produced oil can take tar sands. Also, it’s all for domestic consumption, not for export to Asia.*

*Other sources do not agree with the last sentence and believe some oil is for export to Asia!

Note: The Contra Costa Times article below cites tar sands crude being refined or planned to be refined at all five of the bay area refineries. The refineries themselves are evasive in stating what they are refining and what they plan to refine. Forest Ethics identifies Tesoro and Chevron as refining Tar Sands bitumen.

There are several issues for any up-rail community:
1) climate change contributions associated with extraction and use of carbon fuels
2) environmental risk from train accidents
3) public safety risk from train accidents often involving derailments, explosions, fireballs, and smoke plumes.

It’s not clear that we in Davis or any community can do much (from a federal legal standpoint) to stop anything on a train, but we should sure have a voice in any EIR/EIS that involves crude-by-rail.

City and Regional Response to the draft EIR:  Davis will have an opportunity to respond to the draft EIR for the Benicia Valero Project in writing either as individuals, as one up-rail community, or possibly in concert with other up-rail communities.

Annotated Reference List: Following is an annotated reference list of articles to make it easier to follow the issue quickly. New articles are coming out regularly now, some describing the latest accident, some focused on Bay Area refineries and topics like the chemical content of Bakken Shale crude oil as well as air quality issues, and some articles at the national level discussing the safety of the DOT-111 tank cars, rail safety as the number and frequency of rail shipments and accidents increases dramatically, and some about the correct classification of the crude oil being transported. Note the last articles about the skyrocketing numbers of crude-by-rail shipments into CA.

Categories in the annotated list of references and links:
1. CA Energy Commission
2. Forest Ethics Report
3. Overview of Bay Area refineries
4. Benicia Valero Project for 70,000 barrels of crude-by-rail per day
5. Lac-Megantic, Quebec accident in August 6, 2013
6. Alabama Accident on November 8, 2013
7. Safety of Crude-by-Rail transport
8. Casselton, North Dakota accident on December 30, 2013
9. New Brunswick Accident on January 9, 2014
10. Richmond Chevron Refinery Fire in August 2012
11. Updates on Crude-by-rail in California
12. Miscellaneous Articles

 1. CA Energy Commission tracking of oil by rail:

The California Energy Commission just started posting data of crude-by-rail deliveries to California in 2009. It is by month, updated quarterly, about 5 weeks after the fact, so they will soon post through December 2013. Check the posts for each year at the bottom of the chart.
Crude by rail is about 2 million barrels for 2013 through September, so expect approximately 3 million barrels for 2013. The Energy Commission expects crude-by-rail to suddenly sky-rocket next year, possibly to 50 million barrels or more, and then to 150 million (1/4 or CA oil consumption) by 2016. Total California consumption is about 600 million barrels.

Perspective: A train of 100 tank cars holds 70,000 barrels of crude, so 2 million barrels is twenty-nine trains of 100 tank cars (or fifty-eight trains of 50 tank cars). 50 million barrels per year is seven hundred fourteen trains of 100 tank cars = 2 per day (or 1428 trains of 50 tank cars = 4 per day). The Valero project would mean two 50-car trains per night (or 720 trains per year or 25,550,000 barrels per year). The other four Bay Area refineries are eager for more crude oil to refine also.

The CA imports are mostly fracked shale oil– mostly from North Dakota, some of Colorado, New Mexico, and elsewhere. All the “Canada” oil will likely be Alberta tar sands. The Office of Spill Prevention expects that to remain a minority component for CA. For some reason, there were no tar sands deliveries the last months of 2013, possibly due to a train accident in Alberta.

2. September 2012 Report by Forest Ethics on the impact of refineries that process Tar Sands with an excellent US map showing tar sands refineries. The Benicia Valero plant is in the top five refineries in the US for producing high sulfur dioxide. According to the Forest Ethics report, the sulfur dioxide from the refining process is hazardous for human health. This article will offer support for EIR comments. Martinez Tesoro and Richmond Chevron are already processing the Canadian tar sands. Valero in Benicia is planning the train deliveries of two new trains of 50 cars each night between 10 pm and 4 am (in Benicia) beginning as soon as 2014. The new oil trains will move through Davis! Conclusion: Oil refineries with tar sands crude are the equivalent of coal burning plants in terms of emissions.

3. Overview of Bay Area refineries: This Contra Costa Times article from 6/1/2013 (and the same article picked up by the Mercury News) outlines the startling new developments in the Bay Area refineries with regards to tar sands crude shipments by boat and more recently (and increasingly) by rail. It tells what each Bay Area refinery is processing.

4. Benicia Valero proposal: rail terminal to allow 70,000 barrels of crude-by-rail/ day

Benicia Independent Newsletter about the Valero Proposal. This is a crucial resource! Roger Straw composed and updates this newsletter, with a variety of articles about the Valero proposal to build a new rail terminal allowing them to bring 70,000 more barrels of crude oil per night to their upgraded refinery. He reported on the decision by the Planning Commission to conduct an EIR, which is scheduled to be completed approximately the end of January. They requested Valero to notify up-rail and downwind communities who will be affected. Davis is up-rail.

Document resources for the EIR: The Benicia Independent also includes a full bibliography of articles and all the documentation so far involved in Valero’s request, the NRDC letter and comments (30+ pages) urging a full EIR, etc.     by Roger Straw.

• Valero Rail Project Fuels Tar Sands Speculation in Bay Area Aug. 9, 2013
Amazing coverage with interviews and videos of a woodworker right next to the tracks and a Benicia citizen with the by-product, petcoke! (Also posted on the Benicia Independent newsletter.)

Will Canadian Tar Sands Oil Ride the Rails Through Roseville?
Approval of a project at a Benicia, CA oil refinery will mean 70,000 barrels of oil traveling from Roseville to the Bay Area every day.
Posted by JB Davis (Editor) , July 10, 2013 at 01:44 AM
Valero plans to bring two trains (100 cars or 70,000 barrels of oil) per night through Davis.

5. Lac-Megantic, Quebec accident August, 2013
A Pipeline on wheels: How a changing industry brought disaster to Lac-Megantic
By Robertson and Jacquie Mcnish
The Globe and Mail Last updated Wednesday, Dec. 04 2013, 7:17 AM EST
A thorough final report on the Lac-Megantic accident in Quebec, Canada in July, 2013, details the explosion and the concerns about rail safety and the dangers of hauling Bakken light, including a video link. If the Valero request is approved, we will have trains pulling 50-100 tankers of the same product passing through Davis every night.

Quebec Accident Puts Spotlight on Transporting Oil by Rail
BNSF Railway hauling more oil out of the Bakken and through the Flathead than ever before
By Justin Franz, 07-12-13 Published in Flathead Beacon

6. Alabama Accident and spill on November 8, 2013
Another accident in Alabama on Nov. 8, 2013 emphasized the lack of safety standards when a train pulling 2.7 million gallons of Bakken crude derailed and exploded.
300 Foot Flames as Crude Oil Train Derails and Explodes in Rural Alabama
Sarah Lazare, staff writer
Published on Sunday, November 10, 2013 by Common Dreams, Alabama derailment

7. Safety in Crude-by-Rail Transport: Recent articles indicate the federal government is taking a look at rail regulations.

Crude train derailment raises safety questions
Deon Daugherty — Senior reporter- Houston Business Journal
Nov 11, 2013, 8:13am CST UPDATED: Nov 11, 2013, 12:09pm CST
This article raises the questions we all have after several serious accidents.

Crude on the tracks: Oil spills from trains skyrocket
By Claire Thompson July 19, 2013
Excellent chart showing crude-by-rail accidents skyrocketing at the end of 2012!

Recent developments in federal oversight since July 2013
Elana Schor, E&E reporter EnergyWire: Tuesday, September 3, 2013
‘Bakken blitz’ sets up battle between oil producers, shippers

Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration
This FRA document is comprehensive and shows the very limited response by the feds. They are requiring properly braking trains when parked, and “recommending” that the rail corps take more comprehensive measures, with no effective means of inspection or accountability, and they note that the corps have not followed fed regulations for many years in general!

FRA Emergency Order No. 28, Notice No. 1, Aug 2, 2013

Oil trains raise concerns in small towns, cities Associated Press, December 19, 2013
It’s tough to miss the trains hauling crude oil out of the Northern Plains. They are growing more frequent by the day, mile-long processions of black tank cars that rumble through wheat fields and towns, along rivers and national parks. And officials in towns and cities where the oil trains travel say they are concerned with the possibility of a major derailment, spill or explosion, while their level of preparation varies widely.–finance.html

CN Rail argued against emergency rule after Lac-Mégantic, memo shows
CN Rail argued against an emergency provision requiring that trains loaded with dangerous goods such as crude oil never be left unattended
The rules approved on Boxer Day dropped the provision that the vehicle be attended at all times.
By: The Canadian Press, Published on Fri Jan 10 2014

BNSF railway carbon calculator
BNSF advertises that rail carbon calculations indicated that rail transport uses less CO2 than long haul trucking, but BNSF does not advertise that it is the biggest transporter of coal and crude oil in the U.S., nor the risks of hauling volatile Bakken crude in unsafe tank cars.

Time to ‘aggressively phase out’ old, unsafe tank cars carrying oil
By Bruce Cheadle, CP January 13, 2014
“There’s no question the responsible thing to do for the government of Canada is to make sure, if these DOT-111 tankers are going to continue, that they have to be upgraded,” Garneau said in an interview.
“Something has to be done because of what we’ve seen in the past six months and what can potentially occur as the amount of oil (being shipped) continues to increase. It’s just too dangerous.”

Bakken Crude Oil Rail Shipments Concern Federal Regulators: What Rail Shippers Want
By David Kashi on January 17 2014 11:23 AM
Increase federal tank-car design standards for new cars to include an outer steel jacket around the tank car and thermal protection, full-height head shields and high-flow-capacity pressure relief valves.

• Require additional safety upgrades to tank cars built since October 2011, when the rail industry instituted its latest design standards that today exceed federal requirements, including installation of high-flow-capacity relief valves and design modifications to prevent bottom outlets from opening in the case of an accident.

• Aggressively phase out older-model tank cars used to move flammable liquids that are not retrofitted to meet new federal requirements.
• Eliminate the current option for rail shippers to classify a flammable liquid with a flash point between 100 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit as a combustible liquid.
In September the DOT granted millions of dollars to 50 states to train and improve the nation’s response to hazardous materials transportation incidents

  • Illinois Village Leads Charge for Tougher Oil Train Rules

Marianne Lavelle
National Geographic Published January 17, 2014
This article examines problems with rail inspection, out-dated cars and flammable cargo. Many additional articles are linked within it.

Feds launch ‘Bakken Blitz’ of oil-by-rail inspections
By Ben Geman August 29, 2013, 06:58 pm in The Hill
The big concern with Bakken oil is how flammable it is. The Quebec train ignited into a fireball after crashing at a mere 36 mph. Typically, crude oil won’t do that. The federal Dept. of Transportation is investigating whether this Bakken crude meets the standards to be shipped in the regular rail tank cars, or whether it requires special Hazmat cars. That will be a multi-billion dollar decision

U.S. Steps Up Scrutiny of Freight Train Safety
By Jad Mouawad Jan. 16, 2014
The oil industry is seemingly cooperating in looking at the safety of the rail cars, the nature of the Bakken crude, and other safety aspects of rail transport.

8. North Dakota accident in Casselton on 12-30-13

Officials warn of toxic smoke near ND derailment
By DAVE KOLPACK Tues. Dec. 31, 2013 AP article
400,000 car loads this year, eye witness accounts

Safety questions at forefront after fiery oil train derailment in North Dakota
Article by: DAVE KOLPACK , Associated Press
Updated: December 31, 2013 – 5:35 PM
Mayor’s quote “too close for comfort,” “bomb trains”

Casselton, N.D. residents flee town after oil train explosion
Article by: DAVID SHAFFER and SUSAN HOGAN , Star Tribune
Updated: December 31, 2013 – 10:22 AM
Includes video of flames & smoke plumes, description by residents

Broken axle found at scene of ND derailment
By BLAKE NICHOLSON | Associated Press – 6 hrs ago
Quotes by Casselton mayor! Great photo of explosion fire ball.

  • Fiery hazard warning after rail tanker crashes: Will the oil by rail give impetus to approve pipelines?

By Patti Jan. 2, 2014 at 5:18 PM E

North Dakota Derailment Shows Dark Side of America’s Oil Boom
By Bryan Walsh, Dec. 31, 2013 Senior Editor at Time Magazine

Rail tanker fire threat ignored: Authorities slow to make trains safer
by Curtis Tate McClatchy Washington Bureau Sac Bee Jan. 3, 2014

Exclusive Permit Shows Bakken Shale Oil in Casselton Train Explosion Contained High Levels of Volatile Chemicals
By Steve Horn at Sun, 2014-01-05 21:01
Industry knew since 2012 that the Bakken Shale oil was volatile, two videos including professor who tested the chemicals in Bakken Crude

Oil by Rail Posses ridiculous Threat says North Dakota Ex-Governor
Posted on January 8, 2014 at 8:15 pm by Associated Press in Accidents, Crude oil

Bakken crude may be more flammable than previously thought
By Patrick Rucker Washington Thu Jan 2, 2014 7:38pm EST from Reuters –
Excellent discussion of serious dangers. An thorough analysis of the various dangers of transporting Bakken crude oil: “Crude oil produced in North
Dakota may be more flammable and prone to explosions than earlier thought, U.S. officials said…”

Days Before Casselton Oil Train Explosion, Obama Signed Bill Hastening Fracking Permits on ND Public Lands
Steve Horn at Jan. 7, 2014

9. New Brunswick derailment and explosions Jan. 8, 2014

Another Fiery Derailment Hits Booming Crude-by-Rail Business
Latest accident strikes in New Brunswick
Published on Wednesday, January 8, 2014 by Common Dreams

“Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said on Tuesday, just hours before the Plaster Rock derailment, that the string of accidents necessitates urgent action, and urged the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to hold a hearing on the safety of the rail cars used in the transportation of dangerous materials across the nation.

“This was not the first incident of its type, and I fear, not the last,” DeFazio said of the Casselton derailment and explosion. “It’s beyond irresponsible to ignore. The combination of unsafe rail cars, mixed with exceptionally dangerous oil, is a recipe for disaster. These trains travel thousands of miles through our country, including directly through big cities. Do we really want to wait for a major incident with mass casualties in the U.S. before someone takes action? I don’t think so.”
Despite the series of disasters, however, industry analysts foresee no end to the growing practice of oil by rail.”

Another Oil Train Blows Up, Because That’s What They Do
Major fire in New Brunswick after derailment.
Eric de Place on January 8, 2014 at 9:10 am in Sightline

10. Richmond Oil Refinery Accident, August 2012

The Aug. 3, 2013 protest in Richmond marking the one-year point since the Richmond refinery fire in August 2012, possibly exacerbated by high-sulfuric acid tar sands.

11. Updates on California Crude-by-Rail

California getting more of its oil by rail
The oil boom in North Dakota has fueled a shift for California away from in-state, Alaskan
And foreign sources. The move comes at a time of heightened scrutiny of oil shipped by
September 26, 2013|By Ralph Vartabedian in the LA Times

State braces for risk posed by boost in oil-laden trains
As CA prepares to increase rail deliveries of crude oil from 3 million barrels/year to 150 million (1/4 of our oil consumption) by 2016, the governor increased the budget to the Office of Spill Prevention and Response in anticipation of the new dangers face of explosions and spills.
By Curtis Tate McClatchy Washington Bureau Jan. 11, 2014

More crude-by-rail trains put Davis at risk
By Lynne Nittler, Milton Kalish, and Matt Biers-Ariel
Davis Enterprise January 12, 2014
How the Benicia Valero proposal for a rail terminal to bring 70,000 barrels of North American crude per day means 100 oil tans through Davis every day that put us at risk.

12. Miscellaneous articles
Groups Oppose Planned Upgrades at Oil Facilities
Posted by Laura Dudnick (Editor) , December 04, 2013 at 11:04 PM
Describes projects planned for Pittsburg and Chevron Richmond.

Piles of tar sands waste in Chicago are pissing people off
Piles of petcoke (a byproduct too toxic to be allowed to be burned in CA but ok to sell to China to be burned there) blow into neighborhoods in Chicago and the Bay Area! See item #5!

Oil Trains: What You Should Be Reading
Understanding why oil trains are a threat with links to key articles
Helpful digest of key issues to date and key articles to be informed
Eric de Place on January 7, 2014 at 6:30 am in Sightline

Heavy rain led to CP train derailment in Burnaby (updated with video)
No one injured but coal spilled into protected waterway. A beaver dam under a bridge washed out in heavy rains and caused 3 cars of coal destined for export to derail and spill into the sensitive river.
By Tiffany Crawford and Tracy Sherlock, Vancouver Sun January 12, 2014

For oil trains crossing Oregon, Washington, state oversight gaps raise questions in wake of accidents
Serious concerns about rail safety and preparedness for crude by rail vs by pipeline/boat. Discussion about what is needed to be prepared for disasters (such as foam).
By Rob Davis |
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on January 11, 2014 at 9:00 AM, updated January 13, 2014 at 5:07 PM

  1. […] Annotated Reference List of Crude-By-Rail Articles – January 11-2014 […]

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