U.S. rules for oil on railcars not likely before 2015: agency

Wed Jan 15, 2014 4:13pm EST
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By Patrick Rucker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Safety standards for tank cars carrying crude oil and other hazardous material that have been involved in several recent derailments are not likely to come before next year, the U.S. Department of Transportation said on Wednesday.

A spate of explosive derailments, including one in Quebec last July which killed 47 people, another last month in North Dakota and as recently as last week in New Brunswick, Canada, has led to concerns over the safety of shipping crude oil by rail.

Officials have asked the shipping industry for input on how to make tank cars more safe, particularly in light of fiery incidents involving crude shipments that jumped the tracks.

A prolonged process for writing new rules has begun but many months are needed to digest the views of stakeholders and clear bureaucratic hurdles, officials have said.

The rules will likely not be finished before January next year, the DOT said in a notice of major initiatives released this week.

For many producers, moving crude oil on railcars has been the preferred means of bringing the product to refineries.

Some 71 percent of all oil produced in North Dakota was transported by rail in November, or around 800,000 barrels per day, according to the state's Pipeline Authority.

That compares with 500,000 bpd transported in November 2012, when 58 percent of the oil had been transported by rail.   Continued...

National Transporation and Safety Board (NTSB) member Robert Sumwalt (R) views damaged rail cars at the scene of the BNSF train accident in Casselton, North Dakota January 1, 2014 in this handout provided by NTSB. REUTERS/NTSB/Handout via Reuters