Increasing numbers of crude oil tank cars carrying crude oil are coming to the Bay Area, provoking concern from residents. Trains are unloaded at a Kinder Morgan facility and placed on trucks bound for a Tesoro-owned refinery in Martinez.
A unit train, 100 cars long, is designed to deliver 70,000 barrels of crude, or about 3 million gallons. These trains represent a controversial change in both the type of crude oil supplying the region’s refineries, and the way it gets here.
Crude-by-rail is a shipping trend that has grown rapidly across the country as more oil becomes available from North Dakota’s Bakken oilfields and Canada’s tar sands. Some Bay Area refineries appear intent on capitalizing on the trend.
The California Energy Commission has predicted that in 2016 the state could be receiving more than 156 million barrels of crude oil by rail, representing 25 percent of all crude oil imports. In 2012, a mere one million barrels arrived via rail.
Worries over potential spills or fires from accidents have heightened with the prospect of such large volumes of crude traveling so close to local communities. While railroads point out that accident rates involving oil trains have been quite low, U.S. Department of Transportation figures show they are increasing as crude-by-rail grows.
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