CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The oil carried by the CSX tanker train which derailed and exploded in Mount Carbon. W.Va. was not the crude normally associated with the oil industry. Bakken Crude from North Dakota is considerably more explosive and flammable than most.
“It’s gassier and has more ethane and propane and dissolved gasses in the crude,” said Wall Street Journal Reporter Russell Gold during an appearance on MetroNews Talkline Wednesday. “That’s not really an issue until a train car goes off the tracks and ruptures.”
However, that’s exactly what happened to 19 of the cars at shortly after 1 p.m. Monday near Montgomery in Fayette County. The result was an enormous fireball like nobody had ever seen before. It’s not the first time it’s happened. Gold reported incidents in Virginia, Alabama, and in one crash in Canada 47 people were killed in a small town in Quebec.
“These cars go up in enormous fireballs,” Gold said. “These trains are going through small communities like we saw in West Virginia, but also through Chicago, Philadelphia, Portland, Oregon, they’re going through some very big cities as well.”
The boom in North Dakota shale oil has intensified the transport of the Bakken crude nationwide. The increase has come so fast, federal regulators are trying to keep up and craft laws and rules on the transport of the crude which may lessen the chance for what happened at Mount Carbon. The railroad industry took steps several years ago to refortify the vessels hauling the crude, but Gold said the cars which broke open in West Virginia were the most state of the art tankers in the industry.
“The entire train was CPC 1232 cars,” said Gold. “Obviously they didn’t stand up to what really was not a very high speed accident.”
Federal investigators will be looking at all aspects of the West Virginia incident in the months to come.