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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Crude oil Freight train explodes in Canada...

Some serious accident in Canada….. the blast sent a fireball and black smoke into the air, destroying dozens of buildings in Lac-Megantic, some 155 miles (250 km) east of Montreal.  Balls of flames shot several metres into the air sparking several explosions in the downtown core.

Petroleum is a naturally occurring flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. The name Petroleum covers both naturally occurring unprocessed crude oils and petroleum products that are made up of refined crude oil. They are transported  and the demand is ever increasing globally.

There are specialized ships – oil tankers, specially designed petroleum tankers which transport the oil in bulk.  Crude oil carriers transport huge quantities of unrefined crude oil from its point of extraction to refineries and then relatively smaller vessels move petro chemicals from the refineries to the consumers globally.  America’s energy boom has left the middle of the country awash in cheap oil. But as pipeline companies scramble to spend billions of dollars to build new pipes to tap these hot new fields, they’re discovering that railroads have beaten them to the punch. By laying a few extra miles of track and building new loading facilities, oil and gas operators are quickly connecting remote areas of oil production with the existing networks of big railroads such as Union Pacific (UNP) and BNSF Railway (BRK/A). On the other end, they’re running tracks directly into refining complexes as far away as Philadelphia and Puget Sound. These rail projects can often be finished in a matter of months at a cost that’s usually in the millions, not billions.

Only recently businessweek.com [the photo above courtesy businessweek]  ran an article on the transportation of crude by rail.  It stated that the rail industry is now hauling more crude than at any time since the days of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. According to the Association of American Railroads, trains transported a record 97,135 carloads of crude oil in the first quarter of 2013. That’s 166 percent more than during the first quarter of 2012 and 922 percent more than trains hauled during all of 2008.  While moving crude by pipeline still costs about half to one-third what it does to move it by rail, trains don’t require long-term contracts or need to wait for pipelines to be built. And while pipes stretch only from point A to point B, refiners can access nearly any market in the U.S. by rail.

Proximity to US likes Quebec, a province in east-central Canada. It has a predominantly French speaking population and French as the sole official language at the provincial level.  The US state of Maine  in the New England region of the northeastern United States, borders it.   Then there is the Chaudière River (French for "Cauldron" or "Boiler River");  a 185 kilometres (115 mi) long river with its source near the Town of Lac-Mégantic, in southeast Quebec, Canada.  The river true to its name is perhaps flowing with oil – its water contaminated by oil.


Daily Mail; The spec.com and other newspapers report that balls of flames shot several metres into the air after a train carrying crude oil derailed in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic early Saturday, sparking several explosions in the downtown core. It is reported that up to 1,000 people were evacuated in the community about 250 kilometres east of Montreal. Some of the train's 73 cars exploded and the fire, which could be seen for several kilometres, spread to a number of homes. A large but undetermined amount of fuel also spilled into the Chaudière River.

It is feared that the Canadian town center  is 'wiped out' as freight train carrying hundreds of tons of crude oil derails and explodes; around 60 people are feared missing and about 30 buildings destroyed in Lac Megantic. Parts of the town were evacuated in the early hours as fireballs shot several metres in the air, flames spread to nearby homes and thick acrid smoke filled the air in Lac-Megantic, which is close to the Maine border and about 250km from Montreal. It is reported that the force of the blaze has prevented emergency workers from getting close to the damaged buildings to check for survivors. The Montreal Maine & Atlantic train did not have a driver and was being run on autopilot. Witnesses said the blast flattened an apartment building and part of a pub, which had a terrace packed with people at the time of the fire, according to CBC.


The ferocity of the blaze has made authorities fear for the safety of many of the lakeside town's 6,000 residents. About 120 firefighters are still trying to contain the fire in the town center. Going by the intensity and magnitude severe damage is apprehended. An emergency center set up in a school has  been inundated with requests for help. Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper has sent his sympathy to the stricken town. Newspaper reports state that flames could be seen from several miles away as the fire spread to several homes after the 73-car Montreal Maine & Atlantic train, which was heading towards Maine, derailed. Environmental workers are monitoring the plumes of smoke, as well as contamination of a river.  The cause of the derailment is not yet known; the firefighters have set up a perimeter around the town as they try to tackle the blaze.  There reportedly are wagons which are feared pressurized and hence present the possibility of exploding.  


With regards – S. Sampathkumar
6th July 2013 @ 10.18 pm.

Photos courtesy : daily mail.co.uk

1 comment:

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