Burlington Northern oil train explodes and burns in Casselton, ND
At 2:12 pm on December 30, 2013, a Burlington Northern (BNSF) train pulling more than 100 tanker cars full of of crude oil extracted from the Bakken formation in North Dakota collided with another BNSF train carrying grain outside of Casselton, ND. Apparently, one of the trains derailed before the collision, but there have been conflicting reports about whether the initially derailed train was the grain train or the oil train.
The result has been a series of explosions and towering flames shooting more than 100 feet into the air as the fire continues to burn and more of the cars reach explosive temperatures. The flames and explosions have been accompanied by dense clouds of thick black smoke easily visible from Fargo, about 25 miles from Casselton.
First responders were able to detach about 40 of the oil-filled cars from the train, but the flames and explosions have prevented access to the rest. The current course of action is to allow the train to burn itself out. No effort can be made to contain the smoke or other hazardous material, though firefighters are standing by in safe areas to prevent the flames from spreading outside of the containment zone.
Authorities have strongly recommended an evacuation of Casselton, which is just a mile away from the crash scene. Everyone within a ten mile radius of the accident has been warned to remain indoors.
CNN has covered the story as breaking news.
The version of the CNN report that I watched included video submitted by a passerby. The raw footage of that on scene video had been submitted to a local TV station. For reasons that will be obvious once you watch the raw version of the video, CNN added its own sound track.
Not surprisingly, it is darned cold in North Dakota at the end of December. According to the on scene reporter from the local TV station, it was below zero (Fahrenheit) in the middle of the afternoon. The soundtrack of the amateur video includes a complaint from a child in the car who is — quite logically — more concerned about being cold than about his dad’s effort to record documentation of a newsworthy fire and series of explosions. Overnight temperatures are forecast to be 20 below zero (Fahrenheit). It is therefore extremely important for all evacuees to find adequate shelter.
As is often the case with an event like this one, local news outlets are often the best source of detailed coverage. ValleyNewsLive.com has produced some excellent video and articles about the event that are worth watching and reading. One of the pieces includes some arial footage shot during the afternoon showing the stark contrast between the flames, the dense black smoke and the snow covered grain fields. The page is being regularly updated for those who are interested in following the story as it develops.
Valley News also published a piece titled Health Effects Of Breathing Oil Fire Smoke. Here is a quote from that article.
The Minnesota Department of Health says toxic gases can be found in oil smoke, such as hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide.
Both gases can cause eye and nose irritation, decreased heart function, and increased airway reactivity.
Immediate side effects from inhaling large amounts of oil smoke are also breathing-related, including coughing, wheezing, increased airway resistance, and respiratory infections.
It may also worsen existing health conditions.
But there is no evidence that exposure to the smoke greatly increases a person’s cancer risk, because exposure to the smoke is typically very short in most cases.
Aside: The fact that there is no evidence of cancer risk might be due to a failure to look hard to find it. There has not been an extensive, steadily funded effort for smoke doses akin to the Radiation Effects Research Foundation’s (RERF) Life Span Study (LSS) of Japanese atomic bomb survivors. The LSS has been in progress for nearly 60 years. Throughout that period, RERF has been funding researchers tasked with documenting any evidence that they might find suggesting a link between radiation exposure and cancer. End Aside
It is important to understand that North Dakota has recently moved into second place among US states — behind Texas — in terms of oil production. As much as 90% of that production is moved from the Bakken Formation to refineries by rail; unlike traditional oil producing states like Texas, California, Oklahoma and Louisiana, North Dakota does not have an extensive crude oil pipeline infrastructure.
As one of my Twitter followers noted with regard to this event:
@andronicus @Atomicrod @KyleJohnsonVNL Can you envision that in your town? Horrid!
— Lisa Prescott (@Prescott67) December 31, 2013
The point here is not to spread fears about the fact that an increasing amount of crude oil is traveling by rail, but to raise awareness that all energy sources have risks that need to be intelligently recognized, minimized and mitigated. Though energy conservation is a useful response, so is increasing the use of safer, less polluting sources and increasing the use of improved transportation systems.
Of course, moving crude oil and other hydrocarbon products by rail is a lucrative source of increasing revenue for BNSF. It will be interesting to watch how this event is covered and to see how quickly it falls off of the media’s radar screen.
I predict that the ad supported media will quickly find other topics to capture the public’s attention.
Billings Gazette Residents told to leave homes in tiny N.D. town rocked by crude oil derailment
Huffington Post Train Derailment Causes Fiery Destruction In Casselton, ND
The Guardian (December 30, 2013) North Dakota oil train crash sparks fireball: Scramble to contain fire and spill after incident that will amplify concerns about safety of carrying crude by rail
It will fall off quickly. People are familiar with burning oil and tar. It is not mysterious. There is little Fear Uncertainty and Doubt. (FUD)
Casselton could have been another Lac Megantic.
This is one of the reasons I drive as many of my miles on electricity as I can. Natural gas travels by pipeline, and the other energy sources widely used for electric generation are not highly flammable.
A friend of mine on Facebook made the following comment when I posted a link to this blog article here at Atomic Insights:
“But we can’t have a pipeline, can we? Wouldn’t be safe, would it? Strange that a close friend and supporter of the President, Warren Buffet, owns BNSF and lobbied against the pipeline. Probably just a strange coincidence, though.”
Why the silence on the collusion between Barack Hussein Obama and fossil fuel interests? If Warren Buffet were close friends of George W. Bush or Dick Cheney, then I suspect there would be no end to recriminations. But exactly which political party is guilty of fostering corporate socialism, another word for which is fascism? And exactly which party seeks to strangle the economy and people’s freedom by controlling energy and health care access? Such were the tactics of Benito Mussolini.
PS, and who exactly voted for the man creating this condition? Not I. Not I.
Are you implying this collusion is partisan in nature? Egads man, have you forgotten that the Bush family IS “big oil” personified? To imply that the left is deeper in bed with the fossil fuel industry is either naive, or purposely disingenuous. This governmental “collusion” with the fossil fuel industry soils BOTH sides of the aisle.
It always amazes me to see this partisan disenchantment with what is happening in DC. I got news for you, they’re ALL scumbags at this point, no matter whose interests they pretend to be representing.
” have you forgotten that the Bush family IS “big oil” personified? ”
Continued, never-ending assertions, never any proof or cites.
Now, Big Baseball, as managing part-owner of the Texas Rangers, yes.
“… Barack Hussein Obama …”
Good grief! That sounds like the “cute” little anti-Semitic nickname used to demonize FDR: “Franklin Rosenfeldt”.
And that didn’t work so well, either.
“Such were the tactics of Benito Mussolini.”
Indeed they were. I mean, exploiting cultural and racial bigotry and stirring up the seething (p)outrage of the political Right — major tactics of the Fascisti.
The Keystone would have prevented this !!
It will be a “what?” by next week. Another great op for good nuclear publicity to compare itself with oil and gas accidents blown again.
Trying to leverage disaster to advocate for Nuclear would just associate Nuclear with Disaster. This 2nd North Dakota oil train explosion will disappear from the news illustrating the media bias relative to Nuclear. It should be associated with that.
That explosion had an impressive mushroomy shape to it, I’m just saying.
By 9:30 a.m. MST the CNN internet story linked by Rod above had already been removed from the “US” page where it had been posted (it was there a half hour earlier). It is also not on the current CNN internet home page. So much for “by next week.” Curious, yes?
So evidently a grain train derailed first striking the oil train, all of it near the local ethanol plant. Like EP said the tracks go through the middle of town so this could have been worse. They never even found remains of 5 of the Lac Megantic victims.
The number of crude oil carloads hauled by U.S. railroads surged from 10,840 in 2009 to a projected 400,000 this year. Despite the increase, the rate of accidents has stayed relatively steady. Railroads say 99.997 percent of hazardous materials shipments reach destinations safely. ( http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/12/31/22124295-north-dakota-town-dodged-a-bullet-in-crude-explosion-says-mayor )
This is the forth explosive derailment in a year. Likely it will go to making pipeline arguments like the Keystone, although even as we speak pipelines (this time NG) are demonstrating their own issues:
Crews battle fire at pipeline facility in La Porte ( http://www.khou.com/news/local/Fire-reported-at-plant-in-La-Porte-238265291.html )
this has been a bad year for NG pipelines as well –
2013 (20 August) Explosion Kiowa southwest of Oklahoma City. ( http://ktul.membercenter.worldnow.com/story/23197942/crews-contain-explosion-from-ruptured-pipeline-near-kiowa )
2013 (8 October) Explosion near Rosston, Oklahoma. ( http://newsok.com/natural-gas-line-explodes-near-rosston-in-harper-county-oklahoma/article/3891486 )
Looking at 2013 oil pipeline incidents specifically:
First off most are clearly not reported:
North Dakota recorded 300 oil spills in two years without notifying the public – 25 October 2013 ( http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/25/north-dakota-oil-pipeline-spills-secrecy )
The Major ones this year were (feel free to correct/add to the list) :
Oil Pipeline Ruptures in Arkansas – March 30, 2013 ( http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/us/oil-pipeline-ruptures-in-arkansas.html?ref=earth&_r=0 )
Oil Spill in North Dakota Raises Detection Concerns – October 23, 2013 [spill 29 sept] ( http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/24/us/oil-spill-in-north-dakota-raises-detection-concerns.html )
The pipeline rupture in ND was one of the largest inland oil pipeline spills in the US ever. Over 865,000 gallons of oil.
Living in Tehachapi, this is of great interest to me. Lately there is a push to supply southern California refineries with shale oil crude by rail transportation on an unprecedented scale. And this increased rail traffic, haulinbg huge quantities of crude, would come through Tehachapi, utilizing the infamous “Tehachapi Loop”. This “loop” is the rail line that climbs the Tehachapi mountains out of the Bakersfield area. Already, rail freight traffic is extensive, with train after train after train passing through Tehachapi hourly.
The great unkown here, apparently,if the media silence is any indication, is the amount of derailments that occur on and near the loop. In the last six months I have noticed a number of them, and rarely see media attention payed to these occurrences. One derailment, a year or two back, actually occured in the tunnel the trains pass through in order to loop over themselves. It was a chemical car that derailed, and it was incinerated to a degree that when it was finally dragged out of the tunnel it looked like a crushed beer can that had been thrown in the camp fire.
Personally, I honestly believe the rail carriers are purposely keeping the derailment issue out of the media spotlight. This past year I can think of three serious derailments on or near the loop, one that occured within two miles of downtown Tehachapi, in an area where a chemical fire would have definitely impacted a generous portion of residents.
If the last few years are any indication, should trainloads of crude be coming through here in the amounts being proposed, a crude oil derailment is not a possibility, it is a certainty.
Japans homeless “recruited” to clean up crippled power plant
I guess it isn’t so safe.
If you read the actual article you’ll note, as usual there isn’t any discussion of radiation. Its completely a poorly titled wage and organized crime issue.
There are no accounts of exposed individuals. Police investigate labor/organized crime claims.
Again, there is nothing there.
Lets face it, nuclear can only “succeed” with prison labor. There is no such thing as innovation in nuclear systems as the industry is hopelessly locked into LWR’s. As for organized crime, what else would you label forced subsidies on hordes of peasants?
Nothing you posted or in reality confirms that. Its totally witless. No one here ever suggested there were not dangerous conditions at the Fuku plant or that high levels of radiation there were harmless.
They are manageable and nuclear is still by far the safest means of energy production. Its also the cheapest when all costs are considered and outside influence/poor decision making isn’t aloud to drive them artificially up.
You can camp out forever fishing for a arguable anti nuclear position and posting RT “stories” ad nauseum, its not going to change reality.
It’s originally a Reuters story that others are referencing.
There’s plenty there. When financial mismanagement, criminal activity, and failures at regulatory oversight are shrugged off as no big deal in Japan’s nuclear response, we’re all in trouble (particularly those attempting to follow the rules and set a better example on managing costs and adherence to reliable safe standards elsewhere).
They did the same god the Manhattan project.
I joined the alumni. Great guys.
And actually thats worse than misleading as it implies the homeless were working on the plant and reactors themselves and not (as reported in other similar recent stories) in soil removal and washing operations in places like Fukushima city where the chances for significant contamination are below minimal (impossible).
We’ve discussed misleading RT articles here often before. Now you need to either verify it or admit to your anti nuclear fear and hype loving ways.
France is abandoning the nuclear industry. I wonder what Rod Adams thinks about this story.
U.K. Builds Nuclear Plants While France Scales Back
The British and French have swapped nuclear energy postures
By Peter Fairley
Posted 27 Dec 2013 | 15:00 GMT
“A coalition composed of Socialists and the staunchly antinuclear Greens vows to scale back France’s reliance on nuclear power from more than three-quarters of electricity at present to roughly one-half by 2025,…”
Told you so.
Hardly abandonment, any more than we would say “You walked off the job” without finishing up to say you were headed home for the evening and would return tomorrow.
And it appears to be a push by ‘green’ forces, so, less rationality and more irrationality can be counted on the decision-making processes resulting then in press releases and any possible follow-up ‘action’ (if and when anything actually occurs.)
Every single entity that is building safe (LWR’s) or high performance (fast neutron) reactors is going to go broke or is already broke (Hello France, USA, and Japan and Russia).
I’m going to design a graphite moderated inherently very unsafe reactor that can be built cheaper than any other design. When all the idiot socialists in the west start feeling the pinch, my design wins.
Assertion with no cite; Do I just ‘believe’ or can I use my noodle?
Ultimately, subcontractors are a reflection of the quality of service. On any scale, a contractor needs to vet his subs, whether he’s building a woodshed, or scrubbing a town of low level radiation. TEPCO’s performance throughout this event has not instilled confidence in its honesty, or its competence. The fact that organized crime has insinuated itself into the process comes as no suprise. TEPCO, as the culpable party in this debacle, cannot simply walk away from responsibility for the behaviour or performance of subcontrators. Thats not the way the world works. As a general contractor, should my subs deliver substandard, illegal, or unethical performance, I am responsible. And the performance and integrity of my subs is a direct reflection upon my own integrity. Again, thats true whether I’m building a dog house, or a Beverly Hills mansion.
EL also note:
Yes, as many of the articles state this practice (organized crime ripping off workers) is common in large projects in Japan. [There is no record of any worker bing exposed to harmful levels of radiation by any standard.] But unlike other examples of this “common practice,” here TEPCO and police are cooperating and investigations and arrests are being made.
For once this wasn’t “shrugged off.” And they were open about it.
If you are going to hijack a thread with some outrageous scandal it might be prudent to first actually cite a arguable scandal.
I must be confused. Exactly how are we supposed to get credible dose and exposure metrics from unlicensed brokers involved with a “shadowy network of gangsters” and managing costs (skimming off the top) in a manner that is illegal (even for common day labor markets in construction) and not available to routine scrutiny and oversight (as the article describes).
And why do you claim these issues aren’t relevant to what is taking place on the other side of the power plant gates?
There are lots of problems here. Defending illegal activities (on the basis that they routinely disadvantage a large group of workers) shouldn’t be one of them.
Put the worker in a full body detector. Perform tests for genetic damage/radiation exposure indicators.
Of course knowing that person never went into a highly contaminated area would probably be the easiest way to tell.
“Defending illegal activities (on the basis that they routinely disadvantage a large group of workers) shouldn’t be one of them.”
Wut?? I dont even know what that means.
You seem to be severely misunderstanding the nature of the problem. For workers who are not tracked or otherwise employed on a legal or standard basis, how are such workers then supposed to be tracked on a legal or standard basis. Kind of defeats the purpose of being illegal … wouldn’t you say?
Tests for genetic damage have lower detection limits and are only reliable within first several months. Not sure I see the practical relevance of using this method for the majority of workers. Isn’t using legal or sensible oversight a much better alternative?
Sure there is. Federal funds aren’t going to the people doing the work, and there is insufficient oversight to fix the problem (hence the prevalence of arrests). Would you have arrests and fines if there was no wrongdoing. Your perspective on this story is all backwards and contradictory.
Apparently, according to the link to Reuters that EL provided, this criminal activity using an illegal workforce IS occurring “inside the gates” of the Fukushima complex. So we cannot isolate the corruption to alleged menial tasks performed in barely irradiated outlying areas. If the work is within the complex is substandard, and performed illegally, from what do we form a basis of trust for the data that leaves the complex?
Possible tank assembly? So? I saw that. And the part about illegal subcontracting still being investigated by TEPCO and police.
What is the point here. Its illegal and is being prosecuted. No reports of any of these individuals being exposed to high radiation exist. If they did it likely would bring even more charges.
There seems to no one claiming intentional wrongdoing by TEPCO or any kind of coverup by them or the Japanese government.
I dont see the necessary of the incessant harping on the fact criminals commit crimes. Yes, its shocking they dont obey laws. Thats why we call them criminals.
Monbiot was right about nuclear being accused of things that are common practice in coal. He was also right about the anti nukes basically arguing for the injustices of coal and every other fossil fuel:
Power Crazed ( http://www.monbiot.com/2013/12/16/power-crazed/ )
This December in China:
Coal mine blast in western China kills 21 – Dec 13 ( http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/13/us-china-mine-accident-idUSBRE9BC0PH20131213 )
“Everywhere in rural China poor people, who can no longer sustain themselves as farmers, rush to coal mines, where wages are about equal ( 7 to 12 dollars a day ) to what they would be paid in factories in the big cities.” ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-schiffman/the-worlds-deadliest-prof_b_1179479.html )
That estimate looks about right running to about 300/month USD – same as the people who made most of your smartphones.
Its estimated as many as 20,000 die in coal mining alone in China with compensation running at around 1000 – 6000 USD to the families of each victim.
This is common everyday business practice there. Completely legal.
Whats more, and I hope this isnt true but the pollution costs the Chinese are invoking are looking like a true disaster in the making :
China Says Over 3 Million Hectares of Land Too Polluted to Farm ( http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2013/12/30/world/asia/30reuters-china-environment-farmland.html?hp )
How that didn’t make the top of everyones environmental/social justice list is beyond me, or perhaps not.
You may know more about this than I do, but long ago (mid-1990s?), I read that in the late 1950s, over 100,000 miners died each year in China, most of them mining coal to fuel the Cultural Revolution, or whatever part of the communization process was taking place.
Anything to that?
I haven’t seen that and unfortunately I haven’t thought about it till you mentioned it. As 20,000 a year is a number that is thrown around this decade regarding Chinese coal mining related deaths, I imagine its possible. Especially if you include black lung (pneumoconiosis), emphysema and COPD. Its a shame we all don’t know more about the people involved in coal throughout the years.
To be realistic coal has probably done more good than harm when it comes to providing necessities and paying work. Perhaps in the end they made life better for many others, but its been at a terrible price.
Yes it could have been much worse…..
You have to admire Jim Rogers, retiring CEO of Duke. Here is the gist of his departing comments on how to provide electricity to poor and remote people.
1) Solar backed up by diesel and batteries.
2) Smart grid
OK Jim. What part of they are remote is it that you don’t understand and how are you going to get the diesel, grid, batteries and solar panels near them ?
No wonder you were such a successful energy executive.
Smart grid. lol. And a advanced exchange and grid control hub employing 500 repair and operations technicians no doubt. For a service are of about 200!
If you dig a while even Duke admits the reality of nuclear\clean energy. ( http://www.duke-energy.com/about-us/nuclear-environmental-impact.asp ).
One of the first and worst probably energy related events is looking to have occurred in Minneapolis today. NG? Fuel space heater? or something else??
14 injured, 6 critically in Minneapolis apartment fire [explosion as well] ( http://www.startribune.com/local/238359121.html )
In march 17, 2011 something kinda similar [supermarket explosion] occurred there, but I imagine most were too fixated on condition F to notice : ( http://www.nbcnews.com/id/42129903/ns/us_news-life/#.UsSLZaEjulM )
There was yet another oil train derailment and fire in Canada – I got confused and thought it was this one. But this is a new one:
Evacuation ordered as train carrying crude oil derails, catches fire in New Brunswick ( http://bangordailynews.com/2014/01/07/news/world-news/evacuation-ordered-as-train-derails-catches-fire-in-new-brunswick/ )
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