Skip to main content

New study on transporting Bakken crude by rail

Oilfield Technology,

A new study from the NDPC has shown that Bakken crude is similar to other North American light, sweet crudes and does not pose a greater risk to transport by rail than other transportation fuels. The data also shows that Bakken crude is consistent throughout the basin with only minor geographic variability in gravity, and is comparable to other light, sweet crudes.

Data findings for Bakken crude

  • An average API gravity of 41°, similar to other light crudes.
  • An average vapour pressure of 11.5 – 11.8 psi, which is 61% below the vapour pressure threshold limit for liquids under the Hazardous Materials Regulations.
  • A flashpoint of less than 73 °F, which is within normal range.
  • An average initial boiling point near 99.6 °F, which is within normal range.
  • An average sulfur weight cf 0.14, which indicates low corrosivity.

The above fall well within specifications and design threshold to safely transport crude using existing DOT 111 railcars. The findings also confirm that Bakken crude has been and continues to be properly classified under current regulations as a Hazard Class 3 Flammable Liquid, Packing Group I or II.

The study also found that one of the Department of Transport tests required to determine the packing group for flammable liquids like crude is not optimal. The limitations of the test required for measuring initial boiling point can result in the same sample of crude being assigned to Packing Group I or II. The American Petroleum Institute is currently working to determine improved, more precise classification standards for assigning flammable liquid packing groups.


Kari Cutting, VP, NDPC said, "this is the third independent study to confirm that Bakken crude does not significantly differ from other crude oils and poses no greater risks than other flammable liquids authorised for rail transport.

"Since Bakken crude is no more dangerous than other products moved by rail, accident prevention efforts focused track maintenance, staff training, and train speeds will be the key to improving safety."

John Auers, VP, Turner, Mason & Company, the company who carried out the study on behalf of NDPC said, "a new benchmark for Bakken crude makes a lot of sense. Bakken is a high quality, low corrosivity light sweet crude that is being produced in large quantities. It is desirable due to its high transportation fuel yields and has been processed by refiners throughout North America."

Jeff Hume, Vice Chairman of Strategic Growth Initiatives, Continental Resources said, "creating a new benchmark will require producers and shippers to maintain high standards in order to market Bakken crude as the premium commodity that it is. This would ensure that Bakken crude will continue to be characterised appropriately going forward."

A final written report of the study will be available in June.

Adapted from a press release by Claira Lloyd.

Read the article online at:


Embed article link: (copy the HTML code below):