* Canadian Pacific says site cleanup is progressing well
* Derailment fuels crude-rail safety debate
By David Sheppard and Jeffrey Jones
NEW YORK/CALGARY March 27 A mile-long train
hauling oil from Canada derailed, spilling 30,000 gallons of
crude in western Minnesota on Wednesday, as debate rages over
the environmental risks of transporting tar sands across the
The major spill, the first since the start of a boom in
North American crude-by-rail transport three years ago, came
when 14 cars on a 94-car Canadian Pacific train left the tracks
about 150 miles northwest of Minneapolis near the town of
Parkers Prairie, the Otter Tail Sheriff's Department said.
Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd, the country's
second-largest railroad, said only one 26,000-gallon tank car
had ruptured, adding it was a mixed freight train.
CP spokesman Ed Greenberg said he did not know if the crude
was from Canada's tar sands or from conventional oil fields.
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency spokesman Dan Olson said
up to three tank cars were ruptured and an estimated 20,000 to
30,000 gallons - or 475 to 715 barrels - leaked out.
Cold weather had made the crude thicker, hindering the
ability to recover the oil, Olson said, adding the initial
cleanup was expected to continue for a day or two.
"We are focusing on drawing up the loose (oil) ... and once
that has been taken up, they will then pump up the remaining oil
in the tanks," Olson said. "Because of the winter conditions,
the ground is frozen and there is not any damage to surface
water or ground water. After the initial recovery we will see if
the oil has soaked into the soil at all."
In an updated statement, CP said just one car was
compromised and other two cars leaked while being moved during
the response to the derailment and were contained.
Greenburg said that the Safe clean-up efforts were
progressing well and without concern.
"There have been reports that clean-up has been challenging.
Our crews are taking appropriate steps in ensuring clean-up is
A photo provided by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
showed several large tank cars lying at the side of the railroad
tracks in snow-covered fields, as clean-up crews examined the
spill and maneuvered pump trucks into position.
"We have options to reroute traffic, so we've been able to
continue to move trains while we do the thorough job of cleaning
up the area," said Canadian Pacific's Greenberg.
A spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration said two
representatives of the U.S. rail regulator are investigating the
There has been a rapid increase in rail transport of crude
in the last three years as booming North American oil production
has outgrown existing pipeline capacity.
Canada is the top exporter of crude to the United States,
due to rising output of crude from its vast tar sands deposits.
Around 40,000 barrels per day (bpd) on average were shipped
to the United States in 2012, according to data from Canada's
National Energy Board.
Suncor Energy Inc SU.TO, Canada's largest oil company,
pulled the plug on its long-delayed and partially built Voyageur
oil sands upgrading project in northern Alberta on Wednesday,
citing surging volumes of crude from the Bakken.
Environmentalists have complained about the impact of
developing the reserves, and have sought to block TransCanada
Corp's controversial Keystone XL project, which would
carry oil produced from the oil sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast
Some experts have argued oil-by-rail carries a higher risk
of accidents and spills.
"It is good business for the rails and bad safety for the
public," said Jim Hall, a transportation consultant and former
chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
"Railroads travel through population centers. The safest
form of transport for this type of product is a pipeline. This
accident could - and ought to - raise the issue for discussion."
Others noted that spills from rail cars are rare, and
crude-by-rail has opened up opportunities for companies to
develop huge volumes of oil production in places like the Bakken
shale fields in North Dakota, which are not well served by
Total shipments of petroleum on U.S. railroads rose more
than 46 percent last year to 540,000 carloads, the Association
of American Railroads said in January.
"It's not very good publicity, but railroads are incredibly
safe, they don't spill often," said Tony Hatch, independent
transportation analyst with ABH Consulting in New York who has
done work for major railroads. "It should not change the
opportunity railroads have to make us more energy independent."
Supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline were quick to jump on
the derailment as a reason to build the pipeline.
"It should be clear that we need to move more oil by
pipeline rather than by rail or truck," said Don Canton,
spokesman for North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, who has been one
of the chief political proponents of the line. "This is why we
need the Keystone XL. Pipelines are both safe and efficient."
Hoeven has supported the line as it would help carry oil
produced in North Dakota to higher priced refining centers on
the coast, and could help further expand production in the state
that now pumps more oil than Alaska.