WASHINGTON, March 26 The biggest leaseholder in
North Dakota's booming oil fields said the crude shipped by rail
to markets across the United States is safe, despite growing
fears that crude from the Bakken formation is dangerously
Regulators say that North Dakota crude should be treated
more carefully after a number of trains carrying Bakken crude
derailed and exploded over the past year.
But Harold Hamm, the CEO of Continental Resources Inc, which
is one of the pioneers in North Dakota drilling that ships crude
by rail from North Dakota, said that as long as there are no
accidents, the oil is not a threat.
"Bakken oil is safe," Hamm told reporters when asked if
there was anything the company should be doing to make Bakken
"Anytime you don't keep trains on the track bad things
happen," he said. "It's like cars on the road. Oil will burn,
it's got gasoline and diesel in it, particularly these premium
oils," he said after a House of Representatives hearing on the
geopolitical potential of the U.S. energy boom.
Crude-by-rail has boomed in recent years as pipelines lag
production from new oil fields. But a slew of accidents,
including a derailment last July in the Canadian town of Lac
Megantic that killed 47 people, has attracted more regulatory
scrutiny, especially of Bakken crude that contains more gasses
than other grades of oil.
Bakken oil might be so packed with light gases, also known
as "light ends", that it needs to be treated more carefully on
the tracks, Cynthia Quarterman, who oversees dangerous cargo as
head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety
Administration, said last month.
More than two thirds of oil produced in the Bakken is
shipped on trains.
The Department of Transportation said earlier this month
that shippers must determine the flash point and boiling point
of crude oil cargoes before they are shipped.
Hamm said Bakken oil is no more volatile than other crudes,
but said it is a light oil that yields a lot of gasoline and
diesel fuel, which is why refiners desire it.
He said steps can be taken to reduce the amount of Bakken
oil that is shipped by rail, but they may not be easy to carry
out. "Can things be done? Sure. You can refine it up there," he
said, but in the end the gases and liquids will still need
shipping after that, as North Dakota is far from heavily
"You are still transporting light ends somewhere," he said.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)