On July 6th, 72 runaway railcars exploded in a small town in Quebec. On board, was North Dakota crude.
Black Bakken gold.
From below ground to across ground, it's been controversial. Now, in the wake of tragedy in Quebec caused by the explosion of 72 runaway railcars -- carrying North Dakota crude -- it's in the forefront again.
For the last five years, export of Bakken oil has steadily increased, so that today, roughly 700 thousand barrels per day are moved by rail. "We started moving our first oil by rail back in 2008, and the numbers have gone up since then. Obviously, production has been going up so the transportation of that crude oil needs to go up, as well," says Justin Kringstad, Director, ND Pipeline Authority.
To the point over 70 percent of Bakken crude is transported by railcar. When compared to passage by pipeline, rail wins hands down -- only 20 percent is transported by pipeline. Why?
Because rail just goes more places.
"The optionality with rail allows us to access all corners of the U.S. and Eastern Canada, so it does open up a lot of markets for North Dakota oil that we traditionally did not have access to," says Kringstad.
Currently, the pipeline network ties Bakken output to the Great Lakes' region only. Additional pipelines are contemplated toward the Gulf and further East, but for now, all thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims in Quebec. "My heart is aching for the folks in the community in Quebec, and the situation that they're dealing with. So our thoughts and prayers are with them right now during this time. And we hope that information gathered from this incident can be used to prevent and minimize the chances of something like this happening again," says Kringstad.
About half a day later after the Quebec rail tragedy on July 6th, a Boeing 777 crash landed in San Francisco. Together, these two transportation accidents -- one by rail, one by air -- have claimed fifteen lives with dozens still missing in Quebec. Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway is the operator involved in the Canadian railway incident.
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