Canadian Railway Oil Train Crashes in Saskatchewan

By , and | October 8, 2014

Firefighters contained the blaze triggered by the derailment of a Canadian National Railway Co. train carrying petroleum products and toxic material in a rural area in Saskatchewan yesterday.

While there were still flames at the site in the early evening, firefighters managed to “significantly diminish” the blaze and prevent it from spreading, Jim Feeny, a company spokesman, said by phone yesterday. No one was injured in the accident on the Canadian Prairies. Two of 26 derailed cars spilled petroleum distillate at the site, causing the fire, Feeny said.

The crash extended a series of fiery derailments dating to July 2013, when an unattended crude-oil train rolled downhill, derailed and exploded in Lac Megantic, Quebec, killing 47. That tragedy and crashes like a CSX Corp. train that burned in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia, have spurred U.S. and Canadian regulators to seek tougher tank-car standards.

“Our government has done tremendous work on rail safety in this country but it does show that accidents like this can happen,” Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said during Question Period in Parliament in Ottawa after the accident. “The Transportation Safety Board will conduct their study to determine what the cause of this was.”

The westbound CN train was headed for Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, after leaving Winnipeg, Manitoba. The crash occurred at about 10:40 a.m. local time near the village of Clair, Feeny said. The 50-person community is about 226 kilometers (140 miles) north of Regina, the provincial capital.

Regional Evacuation

Clair and nearby farms were evacuated, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said in an e-mail. A 1-kilometer perimeter was set up around the crash site, the RCMP said.

Accidents involving oil are rising along with volumes. Crude carloads reached 408,000 in 2013, a 37-fold surge from 2009, according to the Association of American Railroads trade group in Washington. Drilling techniques such as hydraulic fracturing are allowing production in shale rock formations in North Dakota, Texas, Pennsylvania and Colorado beyond current pipeline networks.

Canadian and U.S. transportation officials want to phase out older tank cars that carry crude and mandate new cars with thicker steel and safer valves. Railroads in the U.S. have agreed to cut train speeds in urban areas and install sensors on tracks to detect faults.

Trade groups representing companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Warren Buffett’s BNSF Railway Co. pushed back last week against a U.S. plan to ban older tank cars in two years, saying it would create a shortage of rolling stock and curb the oil boom.

–With assistance from Jeremy van Loon in Calgary.

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