Page 29: of Marine News Magazine (September 2015)

Inland Waterways

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New York, oil is being transferred from rail to tank vessels in the Columbia and Hudson Rivers, and there are plans to increase this traf? c with the construction of new terminal facilities. With some of the oil being transported being diluted bitumen, there is concern about the potential for submerged oil that may result from spills from tank vessels or from rail spills into inland waterways.

These unprecedented changes have left federal and state of? cials scrambling to institute safety and envi- ronmental protection regulations to prevent, prepare, and respond to both oil spills and possible ? res and ex- plosions. Besides the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, there have been several other derailments of crude oil trains in the last couple of years in both the US and Canada that are making people think that this is happening “all the time” now. There are even website that will give you a map of the “blast zones” in your own neighborhood. But how real is the danger? What do the numbers tell us?

Real Numbers Analyzed

Transporting oil by rail is not an entirely new phe- nomenon, but in the past, this was mainly limited to occasional tank cars usually carrying re? ned fuel cargo as part of mixed manifest trains. Each tank car holds about 700 barrels of oil. But this all started to change about ? ve years ago. In 2010, about 55,000 barrels of crude oil were being transported by rail daily in the

US – less than one unit train of 100 cars per day. By 2014, more than one million barrels of crude oil were being transported by rail – or about 14 unit trains daily. Most of this traf? c was from North Dakota to re? neries in the East (New Jersey, Pennsylvania), with some crude oil going also to re? neries in Washington and Louisiana. A lesser amount of oil sands crude was coming from Alberta, Canada, to the same locations.

Actually, over the last 35 years or so, the amount of oil being transported that then spilled was decreasing rapidly – in the early 1980s, about one barrel of oil spilled for every 1,000 barrels transported. Over the last decade, there has been a 91% decrease in the spill- age rate since the 1980s – so that one barrel spilled for every 12,000 barrels transported. In the last two years, the rate of spillage per oil transported has decreased to one barrel spilled for every 23,000 barrels transported.

But, with the dramatic increase in the overall amount of oil transported by rail, the absolute amount of oil spilled each year has increased by 276%. The most

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