HOUSTON (ICIS)--Crude oil from the Bakken shale is similar to other North American sweet crudes in risk and consistency, according to a study released by the North Dakota Petroleum Council (NDPC) on Tuesday.
“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,” said Kari Cutting, NDPC vice president.
The NDPC study included 150 samples from 15 well sites and seven rail loading facilities across the Bakken shale area in the northern US and southern Canada, and 95% of testing is complete. A final report on the study results is expected in June.
The samples were tested for a variety of characteristics, all of which fall within specifications for transport on US Department of Transportation (DOT)-111 rail tank cars, the NDPC said.
Bakken crude's average gravity, which classifies oils as light, medium or heavy, was 41 degrees, similar to other light crudes. A flashpoint of less than 73 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Celsius) is within normal range, the study said.
Average vapour pressure, which refers to liquid's ability to hold gases rather than releasing them, was about 61% below the limit for liquids under regulations. An average boiling point of 99.6 Fahrenheit is within normal range, the study said. An average sulphur weight of 0.14 indicates low corrosively, the study added.
Two smaller studies also were conducted, comparing quality of the crude as loaded and quality at discharge. Data indicated no significant changes during transit, the NDPC said.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) lauded the study's initial findings.
“It is essential to separate fact from fiction as we work to enhance the safe transportation of crude oil,” said API CEO Jack Gerard.
The study is consistent with nearly 250 samples of crude oil taken by those in the petroleum industry and shared with US regulators, the API said.
Bakken crude has faced scrutiny from regulators after it was involved in train major derailments in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, which resulted in an explosion and fire that claimed 42 lives, and Casselton, North Dakota, which caused an explosion, fire and evacuation.
Light, sweet crude from the Bakken shale play in North Dakota was the focus of a January safety alert due to what the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) said is its lower flashpoint and boiling point.
Bakken crude was the subject of an emergency order by the US DOT on 7 May, requiring the movement of large amounts of the crude by rail to be reported to the states.
The PHMSA has been taking part in Operation Classification, which involves unannounced inspections, sampling and data collection of primarily Bakken crude oil shipments to determine its characteristics and be sure it is being classified correctly.