CHICAGO Time will tell whether the future of shipping
crude oil by railroad will be impacted by the July 6 derailment
and explosion of an oil tanker train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.
Canadian news reports have suggested the Canadian government
should consider tightening safety standards after the
runaway train derailed, leaving at least five people dead
and about 40 people missing (
amm.com, July 8
North American rail companies, however, touted their
Railroads have a tremendous safety record for moving
hazardous materials, including crude oil, and 99.9977
percent of all rail hazmat (hazardous material) shipments
reach their destination without a release caused by train
accident, the Association of American Railroads (AAR)
A Canadian National Railway Co. (CN) spokesman said the company
was not in a position to discuss the circumstances
surrounding the tragic Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway
accident, but called the event a sober reminder of
the vital importance of rail safety.
Attempts to reach Canadian Pacific Railway, Burlington Northern
Sante Fe, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific
and CSX, which have business with the energy industry, were
This tragedy notwithstanding, movement of hazardous
material by rail is being handled safely in the vast majority
of instances, CN spokesman Mark Hallman told AMM
Rail complements pipeline in the movement of crude oil.
Both modes are safe and the risk of accidental releases of
product is extremely low for both modes of transport, with no
appreciable difference considering both spill frequency and
size, he said.
He noted that U.S. and Canadian railroad operators are
subject to extensive safety regulation. Rules and standards are
prescribed for railway operations, track safety, freight cars,
locomotives, work/rest provisions, and medical
CNs main track safety record in 2012 was very
strong, reflecting long-standing and thorough safety training
and relentless efforts to improve and to continue reduction in
accidents, said Hallman.
CN transports crude oil from western Canada to various markets
in North America. Its network provides direct access to heavy
oil and bitumen production areas in the Lloydminster, Peace
River, Cold Lake, and Athabasca regions of western Canada, as
well as to the Bakken area in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Last year CN moved over 30,000 carloads of crude oil to various
North American markets, and it believes it has the scope to
double this business in 2013.
Each carload equals 600 to 700 barrels of oil.
Between 2002 and 2012, 129 rail-transported crude oil incidents
were reported, compared with 1,849 reported pipeline incidents.
Less than 2,270 barrels were spilled in railroad spill
incidents, compared with 474,441 barrels spilled in pipeline
incidents, AAR reported.
Since 1990 (until July 2013), there have been no
fatalities or injuries related to the movement of crude by
rail, the AAR said, citing research by the Pipelines and
Hazardous Materials Administration, HMIS and Pipeline Incident
Databases, AAR freight commodity statistics and the Association
of Oil Pipelines.