Canadian Pacific oil spill cleanup to last two days

Thu Mar 28, 2013 4:01pm EDT
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By Edward McAllister

(Reuters) - Recovery efforts were underway on Thursday to clean up an oil spill in western Minnesota, a day after a mile-long Canadian Pacific Railway train derailed, rupturing three tankers and leaking around 15,000 gallons of fuel.

The cleanup was expected to take another day or two, officials said, after 14 cars on a 94-car train heading for the Chicago area left the tracks on Wednesday about 150 miles northwest of Minneapolis near the town of Parkers Prairie.

The spill, which has triggered an investigation by federal officials, came as a debate rages over the environmental risks of transporting Alberta tar sands crude across the border from Canada.

This was the first major spill since a boom in North American oil production began to outgrow the existing pipeline network, prompting a huge rise in crude-by-rail transport three years ago.

The amount of oil estimated to have spilled into a nearby ditch and field was less than the 20,000 to 30,000 gallons originally estimated, Minnesota officials said, though freezing temperatures were hampering efforts to draw up the loose fuel.

"Only about 1,000 gallons has been recovered," said Dan Olson, spokesman for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. "The remaining oil on the ground has thickened into a heavy tar-like consistency."

The thickened crude is being moved into a lined trench and will be hauled away for disposal, Olson said.

Canadian Pacific was still unable to say whether the crude on board was from conventional oil fields or from the Alberta tar sands, where crude production is more carbon-intensive.   Continued...

Crews work to recover an estimated 30,000 gallons of crude oil that leaked from three tanker cars involved in a derailment near Parkers Prairie in west central Minnesota March 27, 2013. REUTERS/Doug Bellfeuille/Minnesota Pollution Control Agency/Handout