Study says Bakken crude no greater shipping risk than other oil
BISMARCK – Bakken crude oil is similar to other light, sweet crudes and does not pose a greater risk to transport by rail, a North Dakota Petroleum Council study found.
The study, released Tuesday during the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference, is the third independent study to confirm that Bakken crude does not differ significantly than other crude oils, said Kari Cutting, vice president of the industry group.
The study analyzed 152 samples from 15 well sites and seven rail-loading facilities covering the entire Bakken.
“We’re seeing a more consistent oil across the field than we thought we’d have,” said Jeff Hume, vice chairman of strategic growth initiatives for Continental Resources, who presented the findings.
The study was conducted by Turner, Mason & Co. and SGS Laboratories, with the laboratory collecting the samples from the well tanks to guarantee independent results, Hume said. The study cost about $400,000.
The study showed that Bakken crude meets the current criteria to be shipped in the commonly used DOT 111 rail cars.
“Under today’s rules, we’re moving it in the proper container,” Hume said.
Results are being shared with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, with a final report expected in June.
The safe transportation of crude oil was the first session during the conference. Kip Wills, director of PHMSA’s central region office, displayed a timeline of recent train derailments involving Bakken crude, including the Dec. 30 derailment in Casselton.
“Did the Bakken crude oil cause any of these incidents? No. it might have caused them to be more catastrophic, but it did not cause these incidents,” Wills said. “The commodity may contribute to the incident being larger or more noteworthy or causing more damage, but it is not causing the incident.”
PHMSA has collected 88 samples of Bakken crude oil. All but one sample tested in Packing Group I, which indicates high danger, Wills said.
The NDPC study showed that Bakken crude samples met either the Packing Group I or II.
Both Wills and Hume said there’s a need to develop a better standard for testing the initial boiling point, one of the characteristics used to determine the oil’s packing group. The American Petroleum Institute is working on recommendations.
The petroleum council’s study showed that Bakken crude is low in sulfur and hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous and corrosive gas.
The petroleum council recommends establishing a new crude oil benchmark for Bakken crude, or BKN, to ensure that the oil meets certain specifications.
“It does ensure the quality that we’re shipping this oil at is getting all the way to the marketplace,” Hume said.
The study found that there was no “spiking” at rail stations, or incidents of adding butane or propane to crude oil, as some allegations suggested, Hume said.
The study also looked at five railcars loaded in North Dakota and compared them to the oil when it arrived in St. James, La. The results were close to one another, Hume said.
Consultants also looked at data from a rail shipping location from August to March and found that the vapor pressure stayed within a relatively narrow range, despite the varying temperatures.
The Williston Basin Petroleum Conference is expected to attract more than 4,000 attendees with people registered from 48 states, six Canadian provinces and nine countries. The conference, at the Bismarck Civic Center, continues through Thursday.