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Safe transportation of crude oil by rail

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Below are highlights from the testimony given by Elizabeth V. Tresder, American Petroleum Institute at the Senate of Pennsylvania, Senate Transportation and Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committees Joint Hearing.

“I’d like to speak of the midstream segment of the industry, the portion of the industry responsible for safely and efficiently transporting millions of barrels of oil and billions of cubic feet of natural gas every day from the oil and gas fields across the country to our refineries and processing plants by means of pipelines, vessels, and rail lines. Because of their ingenuity and engineering prowess in overcoming the bottlenecks in the existing infrastructure system, the US is now firmly established as a global energy superpower.

“More specifically, EIA data shows that tight oil production went from less than half a million bpd in 2007 to 3.9 million bpd in 2014. That’s an 8 fold increase in only 7 years! And with that increase in production came employment for hundreds of thousands of people. IHS has estimated that in 2012, over 800 000 people owed their job to unconventional oil activity. This is production from places such as the Niobrara in Colorado, the Permian and Eagle Ford in Texas, and the Bakken in North Dakota. Much of the rapid rise in production comes from regions of the country without a history of oil production and they therefore have limited infrastructure development, such as pipelines, to move and deliver crude oil. As a result, the industry has turned to railroads to move this new production to refining centres on the coasts that were not connected to the production fields. According to the EIA, almost 70% of Bakken production now moves by rail.

“For East Coast refiners, domestic and Canadian production, delivered by rail, has constituted a new and competitive alternative to waterborne oil from overseas. EIA data shows that in January of 2012 crude deliveries by rail constituted less than 5% of East Coast refiner receipts of crude oil. In January 2014, crude deliveries by rail had risen to account for 40% of all East Coast refinery crude oil receipts. This February, receipts of crude oil by rail accounted for more than half of the crude oil supply to East Coast refineries.”

“In 2010, reliance on high cost crude oil from abroad had forced several East Coast refineries to close or become idle as they were put up for sale. In 2012, it took two last ditch sales to prevent 40% of the US East Coast’s refining capacity from being shut down. The jobs and tax revenue that East Coast refineries provide should not be taken for granted nor should the role rail plays in the economic viability of these refineries.”


“With regard to rail safety, API believes that a comprehensive approach that addresses prevention, mitigation and response will yield the most progress in achieving our ultimate goal of zero incidents. First and foremost, accident investigations consistently show that more also must be done to prevent trains from derailing in the first place by enhancing the inspection and maintenance of train tanks, axles and other railroad equipment. With regard to mitigation, API supports upgrades to the tank car fleet and wants them completed as soon as realistically possible, and we worked with the railroads to create a new educational course to complement the training of first responders.

“According to the Association of American Railroads, North America’s rail network moves 99.997% of hazardous material shipments to their destination without incident. In the oil and natural gas industry, our goal for safety is always zero incidents. Eliminating the last elements of risk and getting to zero incidents for rail shipments requires a thoughtful, comprehensive and data driven safety approach. Elements of a comprehensive approach include doing more to prevent train derailments, retrofitting the existing fleet of tank cars, and giving first responders the knowledge and tools they need.

“Over the past 6 years, we have seen increasing US oil and natural gas production drive economic growth and global energy security. We now need policy decisions to secure this path for the decades ahead.”

Edited from testimony by Claira Lloyd

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