Team probing Canadian rail crash visits ND terminal where tankers loaded

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A team investigating the deadly train derailment in Canada visited a North Dakota oil terminal this week to observe how tanker cars were loaded.

The doomed train was carrying 72 cars loaded with 50,000 barrels of crude from the Bakken oil field when it derailed in Lac-Mégantic, Que., earlier this summer, killing 47 people and destroying 30 buildings.

Forum Comunications reports that firefighters who battled the explosion indicated the crude reacted in a way that was abnormal. Investigators from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board spent a day looking at the New Town, N.D. oil terminal. They wanted to see how oil is transferred into tank cars, according to a spokeswoman for the Canadian board. She said they were looking for anything that could have contributed to the abnormal reaction.

Edward Burkhart, chairman of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, which operated the train said the safety of shipping Bakken crude by rail should be reassessed.

“It looks like it was much more dangerous than we were predisposed to believe,” he said.

John Harju with the Energy & Environmental Research Center in Grand Forks, said the lighter Bakken oil tends to flows easier and may be more volatile than heavier crude oils, especially when exposed to heat. But he said it is less volatile than gasoline, ethanol and other fuels routinely shipped via rail.

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