Quantcast

Crude Oil Train Explosion Incinerates Surrounding Neighborhoods

Energy

Oil Change International

By Andy Rowell

The inherent risks of transporting crude oil have once again been brutally and painfully exposed after a massive explosion in Quebec, Canada left part of an affected town looking like a war zone.

At least five people died when a crude oil train derailed and blew up on Saturday, causing an explosion that has been compared to an atomic bomb. An estimated 40-50 people are missing, many whom had been enjoying a late night drink in a local bar. An estimated 30 buildings have been completely incinerated.

The fire and explosion was so intense that the local police are warning that some bodies may never be recovered or identified. The explosion happened in the picturesque lakeside town of Lac-Megantic, which is close to the U.S. border with Maine. The train had been bringing shale oil from the Bakken Field in North Dakota to a refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick.

In the aftermath of the disaster the on-going debate as to whether it is safer to transport oil via pipeline or railroad has once again been raging. The disaster may well be used by the proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline to argue that pipelines are safer.

Both transport modes have problems. Edward Whittingham, the executive director of the Canadian research organization, the Pembina Institute, argues there are safety and environmental risks inherent in both pipelines and railroads. We only have to think back to Exxon’s recent Arkansas spill to know that pipelines in the U.S. are not that safe either.

But for the moment, even as Canada’s tar sands are delivered apace, there is no clear route for them to get to the international markets. That is why they continue to press the U.S. to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Despite this on-going uncertainty, Canada is looking to exploit another heavy form of oil too in Northern Alberta. Think of it as "Tar Sands Two"—except this time its called Dolofudge and has the consistency of peanut butter.

This sludgy bitumen like substance is not like the tar sands and found in the region’s sands, but it is located in the porous rocks of the region’s limestone and dolomite, hence the name Dolofudge. The Canadians are saying the region could contain some 500 billion barrels of Dolofudge—more than the combined recoverable reserves of Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

Dolofudge is not even included in the traditional oil reserve amounts of Canada, because no one has managed to extract it on a commercial scale. But one pilot study is now up and running in the West Athabascan Grosmont, about 100 kilometres west of the tar sands center of Fort McMurray, Alberta.

How much Dolofudge is recoverable is anyone’s guess. What we do know is that with any new oil development there is a huge amount of hype which may not bear any resemblance to reality. One analyst has warned that developing the new fudge reserves is “fraught with blind alleys and unanticipated setbacks.”

The trouble is, that is what they used to say about tar sands and it never stopped the oil industry before.

Visit EcoWatch’s TAR SANDS page for more related news on this topic.

——–

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A roller coaster on the Jersey Shore flooded after Hurricane Sandy. Photo credit: Hurricane_Sandy_New_Jersey_Pier.jpg: Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen / U.S. Air Force / New Jersey National Guard / CC BY 2.0

New Jersey will be the first state in the U.S. to require builders to take the climate crisis into consideration before seeking permission for a project.

Read More
The Director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu speaks on Jan. 26 during a press briefing on studying the 2019-nCoV coronavirus and developing a vaccine to prevent it. Roman Balandin / TASS / Getty Images

Editor's note: The coronavirus that started in Wuhan has sickened more than 4,000 people and killed at least 100 in China as of Jan. 27, 2020. Thailand and Hong Kong each have reported eight confirmed cases, and five people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with the illness. People are hoping for a vaccine to slow the spread of the disease.

Read More
Sponsored
Healthline ranks Samoas, seen above, as the 11th healthiest Girl Scout Cookie. brian / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

By Nancy Schimelpfening

  • Nutrition experts say healthy eating is about making good choices most of the time.
  • Treats like cookies can be eaten in moderation.
  • Information like total calories, saturated fat, and added sugars can be used to compare which foods are relatively healthier.
  • However, it's also important to savor and enjoy what you're eating so you don't feel deprived.

Yes, we know. Cookies aren't considered a "healthy" food by any stretch of the imagination.

Read More
Actress Jane Fonda is arrested during the "Fire Drill Friday" Climate Change Protest on Oct. 25, 2019 in Washington, DC. John Lamparski / Getty Images

When you see an actor in handcuffs, they're usually filming a movie. But when Jane Fonda, Ted Danson, Sally Field, and other celebrities were arrested in Washington, D.C., last fall, the only cameras rolling were from the news media.

Read More
A solitary Dungeness crab sits in the foreground, at low tide on an overcast day. The crabs' shells are dissolving because of ocean acidification on the West Coast. Claudia_Kuenkel / iStock / Getty Images

As the Pacific Ocean becomes more acidic, Dungeness crabs, which live in coastal areas, are seeing their shells eaten away, according to a new study commissioned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Read More