1 Explosive Risk That Could Derail America’s Oil Boom


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Railway operators like Berkshire Hathaway's BNSF, CSX (NYSE: CSX) and Genesee & Wyoming (NYSE: GWR) are all profiting from carrying oil from America's oil boom. There's just one problem, this boom is becoming way too literal as several oil trains have derailed over the past year and exploded. It's a growing risk that has the potential to derail America's oil boom.

I've created the below slideshow that details some of the recent train derailments involving oil. The presentation takes a look at the Berkshire Hathaway owned BNSF fireball derailment last December in North Dakota, Genesee & Wyoming's explosive derailment in Alabama in November as well as the most recent derailment of a CSX train in Lynchburg, Virginia. In addition to that I'll take a look at several other notable train wrecks involving oil in the U.S. as well as the tragic oil train disaster in Canada last year.

What's worrisome is that many of these disasters are happening hundreds of miles away from booming oil production basins. We're seeing trains overturn and explode in both rural areas and cities and while the U.S. has been spared a major disaster there's always the risk that the next oil train explosion will be the big one that derails the oil boom until permanent pipelines are finally built.

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  • 1 Explosive Risk That Could Derail America’s Oil Boom

    1. 1. 1 Explosive Risk That Could Derail America’s Oil Boom Photo credit: Flickr/Roy Luck
    2. 2. North America simply doesn’t have enough pipeline capacity to carry all of the oil being produced.
    3. 3. Further, that capacity is struggling to grow as environmentalists and local residents are fighting to block these projects.
    4. 4. This has created an enormous opportunity for railroad operators to fill the gap and carry the oil to refineries.
    5. 5. There’s just one problem. Not all of the oil is making it to its destination.
    6. 6. A rash of train derailments have ended in explosions which, have destroyed the oil and the areas around the derailment.
    7. 7. It’s an explosive risk that could derail America’s energy boom.
    8. 8. Lac-Megantic, Quebec • An unattended train rolled into the center of town and exploded. • Disaster killed 47 people. July 6, 2013 Credit: NASA/GSFC/Jeff Schmaltz/MODIS Land Rapid Response Team
    9. 9. Lac-Megantic, Quebec • A 72-car train carrying oil from North Dakota exploded into a fireball in the heart of downtown Lac-Megantic. • Tragic explosion killed 47 people and shattered the community. • More than 1.5 million gallons of oil spilled.
    10. 10. Alabama • A Genesee & Wyoming train carrying North Dakota crude oil derailed in a rural area of Alabama. November 8, 2013 Photo credit: Flickr/…some guy
    11. 11. Alabama • The 20 cars of the 90-car train derailed and 11 cars exploded and burned. • Explosion shot flames 300 feet into the sky. • The train was carrying 2.9 million gallons of crude oil. • About 10,700 gallons of oil were skimmed from nearby swamps, however, four months later no one knows how much oil spilled as the swamps still smell from the oil. • No reported injuries.
    12. 12. North Dakota • A BNSF train carrying grain collided with another BNSF train carrying crude oil. December 13, 2013 Photo credit: Flickr/Joshua Putnam
    13. 13. North Dakota • A 112-car train carrying grain collided with a 106-car train carrying oil. • Collision set off an explosion that set fire to 21 cars, including 19 that were carrying oil. • Explosion caused flames to shoot more than 100 feet into the air. • No injuries were reported.
    14. 14. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania • A CSX train heading from Chicago to Philadelphia derailed. • Seven on the 101 cars derailed, with six of those cars carrying oil. • No oil spilled nor any injuries reported. • Derailment left a tanker car and boxcar leaning off a bridge. January 20, 2014
    15. 15. Minnesota • A Canadian Pacific train leaked crude oil along the tracks for 68 miles. • About 12,000 gallons leaked, or about half a single tanker car. February 3, 2014 Photo credit: Flickr/David Wilson
    16. 16. Vandergrift, Pennsylvania • A Norfolk Southern train carrying heavy Canadian crude oil derailed and spilled. February 13, 2014 Photo credit: Flickr/Donald Lee Pardue
    17. 17. Vandergrift, Pennsylvania • 21 cars came off the tracks and crashed into an industrial building. • 19 of those cars were carrying oil. • Four of the cars leaked and spilled about 3,000- 4,000 gallons of oil. • No injuries were reported.
    18. 18. Lynchburg, Virginia • A CSX train en route from Chicago derailed. • 13 of the 105 cars derailed, with three bursting into flames. April 30, 2014 Photo credit: Flickr/Don O’Brien
    19. 19. Lynchburg, Virginia • Train derailed near a railside eatery and pedestrian waterfront along the James River. • Derailment sent flames and plumes of black smoke into the air. • As estimated 50,000 gallons of crude oil spilled. • No injuries were reported, however, the spill did caused drinking water warnings up to 100 miles downriver.
    20. 20. We could be one wreck away… …from derailing America’s energy boom. Photo credit: Flickr/zenm
    21. 21. Pipelines aren’t perfect… …but there is far less risk of disaster. That’s why the better way to invest in the energy boom is pipeline companies, not taking a risky ride on the railroads.