A recent survey conducted by Department of Transportation in the United States revealed that the trains hauling crude oil or ethanol are likely to derail 10 times a year on an average over the period of next two decades. Such derailments will result in an estimated damage of US$4 billion. They survey also revealed the possibility that some of the derailments could occur near the populated areas as well, which would cause fatalities. The research found that both ethanol and a few varieties of domestic crude oil are highly volatile with high potentials of derailment that can trigger mass devastation following explosions and fire leaks.
The research was completed in the June last year, following the increasing incidences of accidents and steadily rising levels of traffic. Railroads have been the most popular transport option for hazardous chemicals and fuels. Many shipments carrying “loose car” traffic to and from industries along with other non-hazardous freight. In 2005 and 2007, Congress passed a legislation encouraging the use of biofuels, which consecutively led to the increase in the amount of ethanol used in gasoline. This bolstered the ethanol production significantly. Therefore, there was a considerable rise in the number of unit trains that carried ethanol from big processing plants mostly based in the Midwest to the refineries where the ethanol was finally mixed with gas. In 2011, the economic segment of crude oil production began to thrive. Hence, the crude oil produced in the Bakken region of North Dakota had to be transported. Until now there are no pipelines available to carry the capacity of crude oil, nor is it very feasible for the economy to build pipelines across the locations of production and refining, hence rail had to take the traffic.
The research report revealed that there have been at least 33 accidents since 2006 in the US and Canada. With increasing production of crude oil, the chances of such hazardous incidents also increased by many manifolds.