Wednesday, February 18, 2015

State of ​E​mergency in West Virginia After ​100-Car Oil Train Derails, Explodes​


by Gaius Publius

There are two ends to the climate crisis story, the output end and the input end, chained together in a way that can't be broken. Each side drives the other, is needed by the other, and each side is deadly to humans.

At the output end, we have carbon emission from burning fossil fuels. I've covered that topic fairly extensively, most recently here:

For an 10,000-foot view of of the consequences of continued carbon emissions, start here.

At the input end, we have the constant exploration, drilling, fracking, transport and storage of the yet-to-be-burned carbon-based fuels, with associated leaks, fires, explosions, and soil, air, water contamination. As I said, both sides are deadly. This is a story about the input side, the source-and-transport end of the carbon-emissions story.

Train Derailment Sends Crude Oil Cars into Kanawha River; Explosions Erupt

So reads the news. Carbon burns, and if it burns, it can blow up. In this case, it blew up part of a West Virginia town. Here's the tale via the WV MetroNews (my emphasis throughout):
MOUNT CARBON, W.Va. — Multiple tanker rail cars carrying crude oil derailed Monday afternoon in Fayette County, triggering explosions and a 100-yard-high flames as several cars rolled through a residential subdivision and into the Kanawha River. CSX officials say “at least one rail car appears to have ruptured and caught fire.”

At least one house was destroyed, but police have found no evidence of fatalities. CSX said one person was treated for potential inhalation (of fumes).

In a statement Monday evening CSX said its teams “are working with first responders to address the fire, to determine how many rail cars derailed and to deploy environmental protective and monitoring measures on land, air and in the nearby Kanawha River.

An undetermined number of cars of the CSX train, believed to be 12-15, jumped the tracks at about 1:20 p.m. Eyewitness Randy Fitzwater of Boomer said he thought a plane had crashed.

“I heard this loud noise. It sounded like a jet airplane flew over my house and then I heard an explosion,” Fitzwater told MetroNews. “I looked across the river and I could see this big ball of flame.” ...

Another eyewitness, who declined to give her name, told MetroNews “the flames were going at least 300 feet in the air … black smoke everywhere.” She reported hearing several explosions “that shook my whole house. I could feel the heat through my door.”
The perp is something the oil industry wants badly — fracked "Bakken crude" oil:
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s office said the tanker cars were carrying highly flammable Bakken crude from North Dakota to Yorktown, Va. Governor’s spokesman Chris Stadleman said it was unclear what caused the derailment or how many cars tumbled into the river.
The Bakken reserve, in North Dakota, Montana and Canada, is a hotbed of fracking: Wikipedia is especially prescient here:
The application of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies have caused a boom in Bakken production since 2000. By the end of 2010, oil production rates had reached 458,000 barrels (72,800 m3) per day, thereby outstripping the pipeline capacity to ship oil out of the Bakken.[9][10] There is some controversy over the safety of shipping it by rail.[11] This was illustrated by the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in which a unit train carrying 77 tank cars full of highly volatile Bakken oil through Quebec from North Dakota to the Irving Oil Refinery in New Brunswick derailed and exploded in the town centre of Lac-Mégantic, destroying 30 buildings (half the downtown core) and killing 47 people.[12] The explosion was estimated to have a 1-kilometre (0.62 mi) blast radius.[13]
Water treatment plants are affected, as the river is used for drinking water by several towns in the area. The LA Times:
West Virginia American Water shut down its Montgomery treatment plant because the facility draws water from an area near the incident.

"We expect that approximately 2,000 customers in the Montgomery area will lose their water service within a few hours if the plant remains shut down," the company said on Facebook\P [sic]

The plant will not be reopened until it is confirmed the water is safe, it said.
Part of the problem is that oil trains are long, and can blow up anywhere en route. According to the BBC:
The train consisted of two locomotives and 109 wagons and was travelling from North Dakota to Yorktown, Virginia.
By the way, the price of oil is near the break-even price of Bakken crude:
As of January 2015, estimates varied on the break-even oil price for drilling Bakken wells. The North Dakota Department of Natural Resources estimated overall break-even to be just below US$40 per barrel. An analyst for Wood McKenzie said that the overall break-even price was US$62/barrel, but in high-productivity areas such as Sanish Field and Parshall Oil Field, the break-even price was US$38-US$40 per barrel.[14]
Is the stuff even worth fracking, digging and shipping? If you're a capital investor, you already know the answer — you can't cash in a closed well, especially if you've spent (or borrowed) the money up front to open it.

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Keep On Doing

This is, of course, an obvious story, and an obviously wrong thing to do. The devil at the output end — emissions that cause global warming — are chained to (entirely dependent on) the devil at the input end, where the carbon is acquired and used. We're being killed by both.

Courtesy photo Matthew Thomas. Flames shoot skyward after a CSX train derailed near Mount Carbon, W.Va., on Monday.

And don't let the pipeline addicts fool you. Pipelines are as unsafe as any other way of transporting poison. You have a choice — exploding fiery trains, or leaking poisonous pipelines. Some choice, right?

The industry won't tell you this, but there is a third choice — get off of oil entirely. Damned if you do, saved if you never go near the stuff again. It's up to you, West Virginia. This time around, you're the one paying the price.


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At 2:31 PM, Blogger ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Clearly the answer is more deregulation and tax cuts for plutocrats.

(Vote for the Dem corporatist, and you'll get some tsk!, tsk!, tsk! along with that. Woohoo, the lesser evil!)


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