Oil train derails under Seattle’s Magnolia Bridge

By Associated Press KOMOnews.com Jul 24, 2014 PDT


SEATTLE (AP) – Nothing spilled when three tanker cars in an oil train from North Dakota derailed at a rail yard early Thursday, but it alarmed environmentalists.

“This is a warning of how dangerous this could be,” said Kerry McHugh, communications director for the Washington Environmental Council.

She noted the train derailed near Puget Sound, under Seattle’s Magnolia Bridge, the main connection to one of the city’s neighborhoods.

“The potential for environmental damage, economic damage and the disruption of people’s lives is huge,” she said.

The train with 100 tanker cars of Bakken crude oil was heading for a refinery at Anacortes and pulling out of the Interbay rail yard at 5 mph when five cars derailed, said Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman Gus Melonas.


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Lightning Threatens Fracking Water Disposal Sites

By JOSH WOOD   Associated Press   7/21/14


WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — Three massive fires since the beginning of June have highlighted the threat lightning poses in the North Dakota oil patch, and in each case it was tanks that store the toxic saltwater associated with drilling — not the oil wells or drilling rigs — that were to blame.

The lightning-sparked fires destroyed the groups of silo-like storage tanks at the three locations, which are among more than 440 sites in North Dakota where so-called saltwater is stored before being pumped into permanent disposal sites miles underground. In each case, the fires burned for days, spewing noxious black smoke into the air and literally salting the earth.

Although disposal tanks aren’t likely more susceptible to lightning strikes than similar structures that jut out over the prairie, their fiberglass components and combustible contents make it very likely they’ll go up in flames when they are hit.

“You’re creating the perfect mixture for ignition,” said Bruce Kaiser, president of the Clearwater, Florida-based Lightning Master Corporation, which is one of several companies that provide lightning protection systems to oil field facilities. “Counterintuitively, it’s the water tanks that blow up, not the oil tanks.”

Also called brine, saltwater is a byproduct of oil production that is between 10 and 30 times saltier than seawater and that contains oil residue when it is put in the tanks, where gas vapors also collect. Companies allow the liquid to settle and separate, then skim and sell off the oil to pad their profits while injecting what remains into the ground.

Due to brine’s corrosiveness, companies would have to replace their disposal tanks every few years if they were just metal, so they commonly use tanks made of or lined with fiberglass, which last longer.

Metal-only tanks would allow the electricity to pass through them and into the ground more easily than those with fiberglass, said John Jensenius, a lightning safety expert at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Because fiberglass is more resistant to electrical charge movement, it’s going to heat up. That’s why you’re seeing the fires,” he said.

Despite the risks posed by lightning, North Dakota doesn’t require companies to install any protections. Some do it anyway — the owner of tanks near the town of Ross that were struck June 27 estimates it will cost $2 million to replace them and clean up the site. But others apparently are unaware of the threat or are willing to take their chances to save money.

Kaiser, who said lightning can affect disposal tanks a quarter-mile away, said the protection systems his company installs can run $1,500 per tank, or less.

Protecting all of the tanks at a single site can run in the tens of thousands of dollars, but the cost of not doing so can be much greater, said Peter Carpenter, an executive vice president at another such company, Lightning Eliminators.

“When one tank goes, to be honest with you, it’s like a domino effect,” said Carpenter. “When one tank goes, you lose the majority of tanks in that battery.”

The fires destroyed nearly all of the storage tanks at the three North Dakota sites that have been struck since the start of June.

Only three of the 14 tanks were left standing after the fire at the site near Ross, where the roughly 24,360 gallons of oil was spilled or burned off and about 75,600 gallons of brine was spilled, according to the state. Alan Krenek, the chief financial officer for the site’s owner, Basic Energy Services, said it is standard procedure for the Fort Worth, Texas-based company to install lightning protection systems at its sites, but that it hadn’t been installed yet at that one.

But “just because you have lightning protection equipment on board doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t happen,” said Krenek.

Indeed, the owners of the other two sites that burned say they had taken precautions, but to no avail.

The most recent, a July 7 strike at a facility next to a popular highway truck stop near the town of Alexander that burned for days, spilled about 118,146 gallons of brine and spilled or burned off roughly 27,258 gallons of oil. Fred Kershisnik, the president of the site’s owner, 1804 Operating, told The Associated Press that the site was grounded and the company thought it had taken all the steps to minimize the risks lightning posed, but will be reviewing how it protects sites.

A June 1 lightning strike on an Oasis Petroleum saltwater disposal facility in Williams County sparked a fire that completely destroyed the facility, spilling or burning off about 630 gallons of oil and about 50,400 gallons of brine. Oasis’ vice president of finance, Richard Robuck, told the AP that the company had implemented lightning prevention measures at the site before it was struck.

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Map of Oil Refinery & Pipeline Health & Safety Issues


refinerymaps image

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Important Meeting Tuesday 7/22

Richmond Chevron “Modernization” Project – City Council Tuesday 7/22

richmond meeting

Get there early to get a seat – 5:00pm Meeting starts at 6:30pm
403 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond, CA

Come support the Planning Commission proposal. You know Chevron will pack the house so please come and bring friends!

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Slinger train derailment leads to evacuations

By Don Behm   Journal Sentinel   July 21, 2014

Dozens of homes in central Slinger in Washington County were evacuated Sunday evening after a train derailment prompted fears of a possible fire from diesel or other fuel.

Three engines and 10 railcars derailed, forcing the evacuation of more than 100 nearby homes, said Slinger Fire Department Chief Rick Hanke. Two people were being treated for injuries that are not life-threatening, he said.

The accident occurred southeast of the crossing of two separate freight rail lines — Wisconsin & Southern Railroad and Canadian National Railway Co. — at state Highway 144 in the village.

About 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled from an engine, Hanke said. Hazmat crews had dikes and booms in place. Continue reading

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Staggering Increase in Oil Spills via Rail

Click here to see the map

Oil spilss RR

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Buffett Tank Car Maker Urges New Rules Include Rail Operations

By Thomas Black Bloomberg Jul 18, 2014

Warren Buffett’s Union Tank Car Co., which makes cars that carry crude oil, is urging U.S. regulators to adopt new rules for rail operations in addition to sturdier tank-car standards to improve safety.

[Editor's Note: Buffet also owns BNSF Railroad.] 


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Crews Extinguish Small Fire At Chevron Richmond Refinery

Fire crews worked to clean up a pipe leaking hydrocarbon after it caught fire at the Chevron Refinery in Richmond Wednesday morning. Chevron officials called the Richmond Fire Department at 2:10 a.m. as a precautionary measure. Crews arrived to find a broken processing line with a hydrocarbon liquid leaking which reportedly ignited the flames. Crews were able to put out the small blaze shortly after 3 a.m. The leak was stopped at 5:30 a.m. and the clean-up process is continuing. No injuries were reported and all employees and contractors were safely accounted for, according to a Chevron refinery spokesperson. A Level One notification was made to Contra Costa County Health Services as precautionary protocol, but there is no danger to the community, according to Chevron officials. Crews remain on site to help clean up the liquid that spilled on the ground of the plant’s Fluid Catalytic Unit at Gate 31. An investigation is underway to determine the oil leak and fire. 


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Mosquito Fogging Planned Wednesday in Martinez, Discovery Bay


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A year ago: Lac-Megantic, Quebec

By Guy Cooper   Martinez Gazette   july 13, 2014

I can’t help thinking of them, the 47 lives suddenly snuffed a year ago, July 6, by a runaway oil train that incinerated that downtown and fostered a firestorm of outrage, fear and controversy across this continent about the haste, greed and disregard that deliver oil trains threatening our communities with death and disaster.

I knew none of them, but feel a kinship for another small, quaint, historic railroad town of antique brick buildings clustered by train tracks aside a waterfront park, alive on a warm summer night with music, laughter and camaraderie amongst good friends. Continue reading

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