Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Exploderende olietreinen in de VS

Exploderende olietreinen in de VS 

(Exploding oil trains in the US)

Published on Jul 12, 2014
Door de toegang tot schalie-olie is er in de VS in twintig jaar nog nooit zóveel olie naar boven gepompt. Maar die olierevolutie brengt een onverwacht gevaar met zich mee, dat zou kunnen leiden tot een catastrofe.

((From Google translate... "By accessing shale oil in the U.S. in twenty years never so much oil pumped up. But the oil revolution brings an unexpected danger with it that might lead to a catastrophe"))

Loosely translated:
There has been a major increase in the extraction of shale oil in the US, more than in the previous 20 years. This ‘oil revolution’, however, causes unexpected danger, which coul
d have a catastrophic outcome. In three years, there has been a tenfold increase in train incidents with highly inflammable oil. Because of new extraction techniques in North Dakota more oil is being extracted than ever. The number of trains transporting this oil has increased twenty-fold. The railways and bridges are poorly maintained and cannot cope with this increase. Therefore people fear that a catastrophe is waiting to happen, just like last years’ accident in Canada with an oil train which blew up half a city center and caused the death of 47 people. The US National Transportation Safety board advices these old trains to be replaced by tanks with thicker steel holds and stress that these transport should avoid villages and cities. Although all agree that these transports as they are carried out at the moment are a major threat, the necessary changes in legislation have not been made yet and transports are still being carried out, straight through populated areas.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Bakken Brine... No Problem?

Published in Tuscaloosa News.

Officials: No evidence brine in bay after ND spill.

Interestingly enough the story fails to point out that this is another byproduct of the Bakken crude fracking industry. (JLW)

Published: Friday, July 11, 2014 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 11, 2014 at 2:39 a.m.
MANDAREE, N.D. (AP) — The snaking, nearly 2-mile trail of saltwater that an underground pipeline spewed in the rugged hills of western North Dakota's badlands left a 200-yard-long stretch of dead vegetation, a company official said, though she added there is no evidence yet that the spill has contaminated a nearby bay.

On Friday, officials were expected to continue investigating the extent of the damage and cause of the pipeline leak that spilled nearly 1 million gallons of saltwater, an unwanted byproduct of oil and gas production. Also called brine, saltwater is considered an environmental hazard by the state.
The path the saltwater took into a ravine left a patch of dead vegetation as wide as 100 feet in some points, said Miranda Jones, vice president of environmental safety and regulatory at Houston-based Crestwood Midstream Partners LP. The pipeline belonged to Crestwood subsidiary Arrow Pipeline LLC.

That ravine flows into Bear Den Bay, a tributary of Lake Sakakawea. Sakakawea, one of the nation's largest man-made lakes, is a drinking water source for the Fort Berthold Indian reservation.
On a boat trip to the bay Thursday, The Associated Press saw no visible signs of contamination. Waterfowl were present in the area — some sitting close to the bright yellow booms placed at the point where the ravine meets the bay. Booms had also been placed around a nearby water-intake system used by the reservation.

The company believes the spill began over the Fourth of July weekend. In the first public statement in the two days since the spill was detected, the Environmental Protection Agency said it had no confirmed reports that the saltwater had reached Bear Den Bay. The agency said most of the spill was pooled on the ground, soaked into the soil or held behind beaver dams.
Jones also said Thursday that there is no evidence the bay had been contaminated.

On Wednesday, Jones spoke to The Associated Press with Three Affiliated Tribes chairman Tex Hall, who said then that the spill had leaked into the bay. On Thursday, Jones said the chairman was referring to the ravine.
The area where the spill occurred is in a patch of North Dakota's badlands — a dramatic, remote and rugged landscape characterized by steep-sided hills dropping into ravines.

Claryca Mandan, natural resources administrator for the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes' natural resources department, said the area is "one of the worst places it could have happened" as the geography complicates cleanup and remediation efforts.

Cleanup crews were carrying equipment into the bottom of the ravine by hand Thursday.
On top of the bluff where the spill occurred, workers could be observed shoveling contaminated earth and taking soil samples.
At the bottom of the ravine, Jones said, crews were removing contaminated water and using pipes to pump in fresh water.

The EPA said it was assessing the site to ensure none of the brine had affected Lake Sakakawea. Crestwood agreed to take the AP and a local television station to view part of the affected area on Thursday, but with limitations on where and when photographs could be taken.

Later, Crestwood and tribal officials arranged the boat tour for the AP to view Bear Den Bay.

Fort Berthold Indian Reservation plays a key role in the state's oil production, the second-highest in the nation. The reservation currently represents more than 300,000 of North Dakota's 1 million barrels of oil produced daily, according to the state's Department of Mineral Resources.
MacPherson reported from Bismarck, N.D.
Contact Josh Wood at https://twitter.com/JWoodAP

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Buhl Alabama Oil Train Wreck UPDATE

Photo by John L. Wathen (Click to enlarge all photos)
On June 16, 2014, A train carrying tank cars filled with fuel oil, Hazmat # 1993 derailed this afternoon with no explosions, no fire balls, no injuries. It was NOT Bakken Crude.
UN No. 1993
Placard Subject: FLAMMABLE LIQUIDS n.o.s., FUEL OIL
No. 3
 I was able to get a ride with SouthWings pilot Dick McGlauphlin to survey the wreck site  seen above. While this was nothing to ignore, it could have been so much worse. This was a light fuel oil placard # 1993.
                                  1993 placard, fuel oil
Here are some shots taken Sunday morning 06/22/14 from a SouthWings plane. It shows a pretty good job of containment. I saw no signs of large leaks or spillage. One thing stuck out to me. There were 4 DOT-111 cars on the tracks to pump oil into from the wrecked cars. There were 6 wrecked cars. I hope there were a couple of empties when it went in the ditch or something doesn't add up.

The aerial photos of the scene tell a lot about just how bad this could have gotten. Note the proximity of houses to the tracks.
Buhl Alabama oil train wreck 06/16/14
Now look at the footprint of the Aliceville Bakken Crude train wreck. Try to get your head around just how many of the houses in Buhl were in jeopardy.

I make that connection because the line going through Buhl is or was the chosen alternate route for unit trains carrying Bakken Crude or more commonly now called "Bomb Trains". The rail road claims it isn't using the line for that anymore. Still, oil trains of some description were rolling on this line until the Buhl wreck. A track that is in very bad need of overhaul in my opinion. Below is a photo of a unit train going through downtown Northport and Tuscaloosa.
See accompanying video here
  The tracks where the Buhl wreck happened and this bridge are on the same route. I went to several crossings and shot some pretty disturbing photos to me. The rail road has dismissed them as follows:
"Most of the photos show typical Class I track, which would be 5 non-defective ties per 39 feet of track, or 5 of 24 ties. While the observation of this track can lead to concerns, the track should be able to handle trains moving at 10 mph or less." I added emphasis on the word "should". 

I find it a bit concerning that the bottom level of safety is the high bar for this line. Only 5 of every 24 cross ties must be sound. It sure seems to me that if hazardous cargo is being shipped on the line which goes through Sipsey Swamp, it should be held to a little higher standard than the low bar for safety. 

I saw and photographed a lot of rotten ties at every crossing I came to. That is something people all over the country should be paying attention to. If the infrastructure isn't sound, I don't care what type tank cars that are used, it is irrelevant  if the tracks are not up to the loads. People should start now documenting track conditions and reporting them to the National Transportation Safety Board: NTSB

The low bar shouldn't be the high bar where people's lives are concerned.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Another one in the ditch

Buhl Alabama, June 16, 2014
A train carrying tank cars filled with Light Fuel Oil, Hazmat # 1993 derailed this afternoon with no explosions, no fire balls, no injuries. It was NOT Bakken Crude.

Due to a camera malfunction the photos were not that great at the scene but I was able to capture the incident fairly well. What is more important to me than the wreck is why the wreck happened. I took time to drive across every railroad crossing along  the path.

Rotten cross ties,  missing rail plates, dips and waves in the tracks that were quite scary since I had video taped a Bakken Crude train on these very tracks not too long ago. This line is in very bad condition and was probably the cause of the wreck. It should be mentioned that this is the route that was used as an alternate route for Bakken crude bomb trains after the Aliceville Alabama explosion.

Check out the photos below and see for yourself what is right outside most neighborhoods across America.

Rotten cross ties

Wavy tracks

Sagging tracks

Oil stain on tacks

Cross ties completely rotted away

Gaps under spacers

The wreck site

1993 hazmat placards (light fuel oil)

DOT - 111 cars

I saw no sign of spillage yet

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Oil mars Ala. swamp months after crude train crash

Oil mars Ala. swamp months after crude train crash


Photo by Jay Reeves, AP
John Wathen, an environmentalist with the Waterkeeper Alliance, gestures at the site of a train derailment and oil spill near Aliceville, Ala., on Wednesday, May 5, 2014. 
Environmental regulators say cleanup and containment work is continuing at the site, but critics contend the accident and others show the danger of transporting large amounts of oil in tanker trains. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)
ALICEVILLE, Ala. (AP) - Environmental regulators promised an aggressive cleanup after a tanker train hauling 2.9 million gallons of crude oil derailed and burned in a west Alabama swamp in early November amid a string of North American oil train crashes.
So why is dark, smelly crude oil still oozing into the water four months later?
The isolated wetland smelled like a garage when a reporter from The Associated Press visited last week, and the charred skeletons of burned trees rose out of water covered with an iridescent sheen and swirling, weathered oil. A snake and a few minnows were some of the few signs of life.
An environmental group now says it has found ominous traces of oil moving downstream along an unnamed tributary toward a big creek and the Tombigbee River, less than 3 miles away. And the mayor of a North Dakota town where a similar crash occurred in December fears ongoing oil pollution problems in his community, too.
As the nation considers new means of transporting fuel over long distances, critics of crude oil trains have cited the Alabama derailment as an example of what can go wrong when tanker cars carrying millions of gallons of so-called Bakken crude leave the tracks. Questions about the effectiveness of the Alabama cleanup come as the National Transportation Safety Board considers tighter rules for the rail transportation of Bakken oil, which is produced mainly by the fracking process in the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana. Oil production is increasing there, boosting the amount of oil being transported across the country.
Environmentalist John Wathen, who has conducted tests and monitored the Alabama site for months for Waterkeeper Alliance, said Genesee & Wyoming railroad and regulators did the bare minimum to spruce up an isolated, rural site and left once the tracks were repaired so trains could run again.
"I believe they really thought that because it's out of sight, out of mind, out in the middle of a swamp, that nobody was going to pay attention," said Wathen.
Regulators and the company deny any such thing occurred, however.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, which oversaw the cleanup, say more than 10,700 gallons of oil were skimmed from the water after the derailment, and workers collected about 203,000 gallons of oil from damaged rail cars using pumps. Another 290 cubic yards of oily dirt was excavated with heavy equipment, or enough to cover a basketball court with soil nearly 2 feet deep.
Yet four months later, officials still say no one knows exactly how much oil was spilled. That's mainly because an unknown amount of oil burned in a series of explosions and a huge fire that lasted for hours after the crash. Since no one knows how much oil burned, officials also can't say how much oil may be in the swamp.
About a month after the crash, the head of Alabama's environmental agency, Lance LeFleur, promised "aggressive recovery operations" in a written assessment for a state oversight commission. He said the oil had been contained in a "timely" manner and none had left the wetlands.
Michael Williams, a spokesman for the Connecticut-based Genesee & Wyoming, which owns the short-line Alabama & Gulf Coast Railway line where the crash occurred, said the company is still monitoring the site closely and maintaining a system of barriers meant to keep oil from spreading. The work is continuous, he said.
But regulators and the railroad confirm one of Wathen's worst fears: That environmental agencies let the railroad repair the badly damaged rail bed and lay new tracks before all the spilled oil was removed. Wathen calls the move a mistake that's behind the continuing seepage of oil into the water.
"I do agree that they needed to get the rail cars out. But there were other ways to do it," said Wathen. "Those would have been more expensive."
James Pinkney, an EPA spokesman in Atlanta, said the rail line had to be fixed quickly to remove oil and damaged rail cars that still contained crude from the wetland.
Agencies are now working with the company and its contractors to recover the remaining oil trapped in the rail bed, but it's unclear when or how that might happen.
"The EPA and ADEM are continuing to work together to insure all recoverable oil is removed from the site," Pinkney in a written response to questions.
Ed Overton, an environmental sciences professor at Louisiana State University, said spilled crude can linger at a site indefinitely if it's buried in the ground. Depending on the amount of oil that remains, he said, containment devices may be needed in the swamp for at least a couple of years.
But Bakken crude evaporates quickly once exposed to air because of its composition, said Overton, so the fact that oil remains in the swamp isn't "the end of the world."
"It's going to look bad for awhile," he said. "It's amazing how quickly Mother Nature can handle such things, but it will take time."
The cause of the derailment - which happened at a wooden trestle that was destroyed by the flames and since has been replaced by buried culverts that let water flow underneath the tracks - remains under investigation by the Federal Railroad Administration.
The crash site appears in better shape now than right after the derailment, partly because burned tanker cars misshapen by explosions are gone. Much of the water surrounding the site appears clear, and the odor from the site isn't bad enough to reach the home of Leila Hudgins, just a few hundred yards away.
"I haven't smelled anything," said Hudgins. "They did a good job. They hauled off truckload after truckload."
The crash site, located off an old dirt road and a new one that was built during the response, is accessible both by car and foot, but Hudgins said she hasn't looked closely at the spot where it happened.
The railroad said testing hasn't detected any groundwater contamination, and EPA said air monitoring ended about a month after the crash when it became apparent there were no airborne health hazards.
Still, questions linger. Wathen said he has been taking water samples several hundred yards downstream from the crash site and has detected the chemical fingerprint of so-called Bakken crude, which the train was carrying with it derailed.
"There's no question it is outside their containment area, and I think it's even further away," said Wathen. "This is an environmental disaster that could go on for years."
The Alabama train was on a southbound run when it derailed less than 3 miles south of Aliceville, a town of about 2,400 people near the Mississippi line. Another oil train derailed and burned in December at Casselton, N.D., and 47 people died in July when a train carrying Bakken oil exploded and burned in Quebec.
The mayor of Casselton, Ed McConnell said he has been keeping up with the Alabama cleanup because spilled oil also was buried under the rebuilt railroad tracks near his town of 2,400 people. He worries that oil will reappear on the ground at Casselton as the spring thaw begins in coming weeks.
"It's still in the ground here, too," said McConnell. "They've hauled a lot of dirt and stuff out. But they covered up the (oily) dirt before getting it all up and rebuilt the track to get it going."
Alabama's environmental agency said it still regularly visits the wreck site, which is encircled with the same sort of absorbent fencing, oil-snaring pom-poms and plastic barriers that were used on the Gulf Coast after the BP well blowout in 2010.
Once the "emergency" phase ends, the state environmental agency will install wells to monitor groundwater, said spokesman Jerome Hand.
Government regulators will approve any plans for removing remaining oil from the site, he said.



Friday, March 7, 2014

Aliceville a day after "repairs"

Aliceville a day after "repairs"

After my trip to Aliceville on Sunday, 03/02/14 I posted the results of the trip as being far less then cleaned up.

I returned a couple of days later for followup after a rain event. When I got there it was obvious that someone had been there since my last visit. There was some new boom in place in a few places as well as a new string of "pom-pom" booms had been placed around the tracks. There had been a fairly significant rain event Sunday night and Monday so in all likelihood the repairs were made on Tuesday. There was a lot of oil gone but I can't say whether they cleaned it up or the rain washed it through the wetland downstream.

It was good to see some degree of effort but it was minimal at best. Oil was still weeping out of the  ground with sheen on the surface.
Downstream of the tracks the new products seemed to be containing the oil for the time being but more oil was pouring of of the ground fast enough to see with the naked eye.
10:24 A.M
11:13 A.M.
11:15 A.M.
11:15 A.M.
As the sun warmed the soil, the crude came out faster. It's hard to say when if ever this will stop.

On the upstream side of the tracks there had been some boom replaced up close but the outside perimeter screens were down and or flapping in the breeze. Some oil collected in this fabric is being released back into the water when the wind blows it high enough to start flapping. Try wetting a towel and snap the water out of it, you'll probably get wet. Same principal.



Weathered oil could be seen inside and outside the containment.

It seems to me like if they were going to go to the effort of replacing the products along the tracks it would be more feasible to complete the job all round instead of piecemeal slap and dash repairs.