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Bakken Oil in North Dakota Train Derailment Was Treated, Officials Say

Bakken crude oil being transported on the BNSF train that derailed in northeast North Dakota last Wednesday was treated to lessen its volatility under state requirements established late last year (see Shale Daily, Dec. 11, 2014), officials told NGI's Shale Daily on Friday.

"All Bakken crude must be conditioned before it changes custody, which can be when it enters the pipeline system, gets on a truck and/or the rail facility," said a spokesperson for the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), which oversees oil/natural gas development in the state. "The oil on the train met our specifications for oil conditioning as evidenced by [an analysis report from the Hess Corp. Tioga rail terminal site]."

North Dakota requirements restrict oil being moved to a vapor pressure of 13.7 psi, the spokesperson said.

At the scene, BNSF and federal/state investigators still have not determined a cause for the 10-tanker car derailment, and railroad crews were working Friday morning to clean up the area, remove the derailed cars and finish repairing the damaged track.

A BNSF spokesperson said the track was expected to be cleared to reopen at 1 p.m. CDT Friday.

"We are thankful there are no injuries and regret the inconvenience this incident has caused to local residents [in Heimdal, ND]," said the BNSF spokesperson. The railroad has set up a claims center in the area and is "reaching out" to affected residents to assist with expenses associated with the evacuation, the spokesperson said.

Under rules on crude conditioning set by North Dakota’s Industrial Commission (IC), all production in the state, including the substantial supplies coming from the Fort Berthold Reservation on federal lands, must adhere to requirements that were put in place following a series of rail accidents involving Bakken oil (see Shale Daily, Jan. 3, 2014). They would also prohibit "blending back" of natural gas liquids into the crude shipments.

Addressing the liquids content of light sweet Bakken oil, which is being produced at an increasing rate of more than 1 million b/d, the rules took effect April 1. Gov. Jack Dalrymple, one of three IC members, said the commission's order made it clear that a stabilization process, common in other oil and gas basins around the country, including the Permian Basin, would take place on every barrel produced in the state.

The rules have marked a significant change in operations for 45% of the producers for their heating and treating of crude before shipment. This has meant added costs of an unspecified amount, and an emphasis on "science and enforcement" by DMR, which implements the rules.

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