University of Delaware
delware environmental institute

WDDE: Concerns over oil train safety felt in First State

The issue, something many weren’t even aware of until recently, became hard to ignore after the derailment of a train that spilled more than a million and a half gallons of oil in Lac-Magéntic, Quebec in July of last year. That derailment led to an explosion that killed 47 people and destroyed much of the town.

The train was carrying oil from the Bakken formation in North Dakota, which is more flammable than other types of crude.

The oil that’s refined in Delaware City is primarily from those fields and others in Canada. And if everything goes as planned, more is on the way.

A lot more, says Jose Dominguez, the manager of the Delaware City refinery.

“I would say we typically run 160-170 thousand barrels a day, and probably 120 or so is via rail right now. We are doing some projects to get that up to be able to receive 100 percent by rail here in an August or September timeframe,” said Dominguez.

The refinery eventually expects to be receiving more than 200,000 barrels of oil a day.

The increase in shipments to Delaware City reflects the dramatic expansion of both domestic and Canadian oil production in recent years, and the best and most cost effective way to get it to Delaware is by train. Dominguez says that eventually, all of the oil arriving at the Delaware City refinery will shift from the sea to rail.

He says those rail shipments are what keeps the refinery in business and about a thousand people employed.

“This is a critical thing for this refinery. Without the rail crude, it would not be making money — it would be losing money,” said Dominguez.

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