Study: Bakken no greater transport risk than other light crudes

The North Dakota Petroleum Council (NDPC) has released the final report on a study it commissioned to examine the characteristics of crude oil produced from the Bakken shale region.

The third-party study, completed by Turner, Mason & Co., Dallas, and SGS Laboratories, indicates Bakken crude is similar to other North American light, sweet crudes and does not pose a greater risk to transport by rail than other crudes and transportation fuels, NDPC said.

The final report follows preliminary results of the study presented in May (OGJ Online, May 20, 2014).

Designed to better understand the safety aspects of moving Bakken crude by rail, the study came as a response to concerns raised by government and industry groups as to the stability and safe transportability of the regional crude after its involvement in a series of high-profile railcar incidents in both the US and Canada, according to NDPC (OGJ Online, Aug. 12, 2013).

NDPC said it commissioned the comprehensive sampling and testing program to answer questions regarding the chemical and physical composition of Bakken crude, address issues related to its proper classification, and establish a Bakken crude quality baseline.

In addition to providing a thorough breakdown of physical crude properties based on the final results from sampling and testing, the report also details recommended best practices for Bakken field operations to ensure consistent operation of field treating equipment, Bakken crude quality, testing procedures, and shipping classifications.

“The study helped establish a baseline for Bakken crude characteristics, and by implementing the recommended best practices outlined in the report, we will ensure Bakken crude remains consistent to those properties,” said Kari Cutting, vice-president of NDPC.

Cutting also noted that findings of the study also corroborate scientific data on Bakken crude properties previously reported by the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers and the US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (OGJ Online, May 15, 2014).

All of these data combined—including those from AFPM, PHMSA, and NDPC—do not support the speculation that Bakken crude is more volatile or flammable than other light, sweet crudes, Cutting said.

NDPC said it hopes to use the findings of the recent report to work with regulators and rail companies to both develop and implement standards that will ensure the safe transportation of all flammable liquids by rail.

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