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Oil from North Dakota Fracking Wells Blamed for Corroding Rail Cars, Pipelines

Aug 14, 2013

Some of the most dangerous chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process may be having an adverse impact on the oil and rail industries.

A recent report from Bloomberg News notes that the rail industry is opposing measures that would require owners of rail cars to retrofit them to make them less susceptible to explosions in the event of a derailment. That measure got increased attention recently following the deadly train derailment in Quebec, Canada, that killed 47 people and injured hundreds more.

The train was carrying oil from North Dakota that reportedly had excessive amounts of highly flammable chemicals, which only started to appear in the crude shipping from North Dakota after the state had allowed widespread fracking, Bloomberg’s report notes. The oil was from North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation.

As we’ve noted in the past, fracking drilling can be conducted in the search for natural gas and oil, too. In North Dakota, fracking to find oil in the Bakken shale is causing that oil to be contaminated with the chemicals used in the drilling process. Our previous accounts report that fracking is conducted by inserting a drill into a miles-long underground well shaft until it reaches a shale formation. The drill is guided by water, sand, and a mix of hundreds of chemicals that reach the rock and blast it apart to release the trapped fuel reserves.

This report suggests that those chemicals are making their way into the oil — and making it combustible when it previously wasn’t. Further, according to a report from, as well as the one from Bloomberg, the chemicals leaching into the oil are corroding the insides of rail cars and also putting at risk of serious injury or death those who work at refineries that accept this oil.

Bloomberg notes that the U.S. Federal Railroad Association is now investigating the composition of the oil coming from fracking wells and how it impacts the safety of rail cars. Companies that manufacture pipelines carrying the oil from North Dakota fracking operations are also investigating claims that the crude is corrosive and combustible, and damaging the pipelines and putting workers at risk. One pipeline owner believes North Dakota’s oil contains too much hydrogen sulfide. reports that the oil allegedly also has dangerous amounts of hydrochloric acid, which is what’s corroding the rail cars.

Add these concerns to the numerous others that have been linked to fracking drilling recently. Our previous reports show that fracking for natural gas and oil can contaminate groundwater, water aquifers, and eventually private water wells with methane gas, the chief component of natural gas. Critics of the fracking process believe that methane gas is escaping the underground wells and finding its way into groundwater.

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