In May of 2014, The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) released findings from a study that examined the characteristics of Bakken crude oil and the standards required to transport by rail. In their report, the AFPM claims Bakken crude is within the safety standards for current rail car designs, and is comparable to other light crudes. In particular, the AFPM said the study found Bakken crudes are within the regulatory limits for pressure, flashpoint, boiling point and corrosivity for use in Department of Transportation (DOT) approved railcars.
The study comes on the heels of a number of U.S. elected officials asking for more railway safety measures, following multiple train derailments and explosions involving Bakken crude. In early April of 2014, a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing was held to examine the level of federal resources that should be allotted for railway safety.
Bakken Crude DOT Classification
Bakken crude oil is designated as a flammable liquid under the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR), and therefore is subject to evaluation of its flashpoint and initial boiling point for classification purposes. The study found while Bakken crude and other light crudes may contain higher amounts of dissolved flammable gases compared to some heavy crude oils, the percentage of dissolved gases would not cause Bakken crude to be transported under a DOT hazard class other than Class 3 Flammable Liquid. AFPM's conclusion for the study is there is no need to create a new DOT classification for crude oil transportation.