oil train

PressmasterThis is what an oil train looks like before it goes off the rails and blows up.

Yet another oil-hauling train has derailed and exploded, this one sending flaming cars loaded with North Dakota crude into Alabama wetlands.

The 90-car train derailed early Friday, causing flames to shoot 300 feet into the air. No injuries were reported. One family living in the marshy area was evacuated from their home following the accident. The L.A. Times has the details:

A train that derailed and exploded in rural Alabama was hauling 2.7 million gallons of crude oil, according to officials.

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The 90-car train was crossing a timber trestle above a wetland near Aliceville late Thursday night when approximately 25 rail cars and two locomotives derailed, spilling crude oil into the surrounding wetlands and igniting a fire that was still burning Saturday.

Each of the 90 cars was carrying 30,000 gallons of oil, said Bill Jasper, president of the rail company Genesee & Wyoming at a press briefing Friday night. It’s unclear, though, how much oil was spilled because some of the cars have yet to be removed from the marsh.

And here’s more from Reuters:

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A local official said the crude oil had originated in North Dakota, home of the booming Bakken shale patch. If so, it may have been carrying the same type of light crude oil that was on a Canadian train that derailed in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic this summer, killing 47 people. …

The accident happened in a wetlands area that eventually feeds into the Tombigbee River, according to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. Booms were placed in the wetlands to contain the spilled oil.

In Demopolis, Alabama, some 40 miles south of the site of the accident, where the rail line runs 300 meters away from the U.S. Jones Elementary School, Mayor Michael Grayson said there hadn’t been an accident in the area in a century of train traffic.

But since last summer, when the oil trains first began humming past, officials discussed what might happen if a bridge just outside of town collapsed, dumping crude into the river.

“Sadly, with this thing, the only thing you can do is try to be prepared,” he said by phone.

Thanks to the North American oil boom, more and more crude is being shipped by rail — and more and more crude is being spilled by rail. The Lac-Megantic disaster isn’t the only previous example. There were 88 rail accidents involving crude oil last year, up from one or two per year during much of the previous decade. Other high-profile accidents in North America this year have included a 15,000-gallon spill from a derailed train in Minnesota in April and a fiery accident near Edmonton, Alberta, last month.

These accidents often fuel debate over whether more pipelines should be built to help safely haul oil and natural gas across the continent. But pipeline spills are on the rise too. Has anybody thought of just leaving the filthy stuff in the ground?

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