UPDATE 3-Train carrying crude oil derails, explodes in Alabama

Fri Nov 8, 2013 2:03pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

(Adds further background on regulation of crude-by-rail; oil market reaction)

By Edward McAllister

Nov 8 (Reuters) - A 90-car train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in a rural area of western Alabama early on Friday, leaving 11 cars burning and potentially bolstering the push for tougher regulation of a boom in moving oil by rail.

No injuries have been reported, but 20 of the train's cars derailed and 11 were still on fire, the train owner, Genesee & Wyoming, said in a statement. Those cars, which threw flames 300 feet into the night sky, are being left to burn down, which could take up to 24 hours.

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.

That accident fueled a drive for tougher standards for oil rail shipments, including better testing of potentially explosive ultra-light shale crude and improved rail tank car standards. Tank cars made before 2011 have been cited by regulators as dangerously prone to puncture.

It was not clear what caused the accident, nor how old the cars on the Genesee & Wyoming train were. The train was being driven by two engineers, both unharmed, officials said.

While Friday's accident in Pickens County, Alabama did not seem to pose major environmental risk, it still appeared to be the most dramatic of its kind in the United States since trafficking of crude by rail began to increase with the growth of shale oil production three years ago.

"It will provide very clear evidence of the potential risks for environmental groups and others opposed to the growth of crude by rail, and will likely increase pressure to tighten regulations," said Elena McGovern, Global Energy and Natural Resources analyst at Eurasia Group in Washington.   Continued...