(Recasts, adds background, comments from Hess, Enbridge, API)
By Patrick Rucker
WASHINGTON May 2 Few oil-by-rail shippers have
heeded calls for information to prevent dangerous mishaps on the
tracks, the U.S. Department of Transportation said on Friday as
it named the three companies it said have cooperated.
Testing data has so far been tallied from Exxon Mobil
, Continental Resources Inc and Savage Companies,
the agency said.
Several other companies on Friday said that they would
respond or had given data to DOT officials in North Dakota.
"We have shared it with their people in the field,
voluntarily," said John Roper, spokesman for Hess Corp.
Regulators are eyeing North Dakota's energy patch, known as
the Bakken, as the origin of several shipments such as this
week's derailment in Lynchburg, Virginia, in which several tank
cars jumped the tracks and burst into flames.
Officials have warned since January that Bakken fuel might
be more dangerous on the tracks than other conventional crude
oil. Unresolved questions about its volatility have infused a
broader debate about oil-by-rail safety.
Crude oil can be transported in a standard tank car, but
some industry officials have said Bakken fuel may be more
similar to flammable gas like propane, which must be moved in
The Department of Transportation this week sent to the White
House's Office of Management and Budget a plan to improve tank
car standards for trains carrying highly flammable materials.
Details of those proposed rules have not been made public.
A fiery derailment last July that destroyed the center of
Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people, has been followed by
several oil-by-rail mishaps in the United States.
The DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety
Administration sent inspectors into the field last summer to
examine the situation.
"They've been out there at least five times fairly
recently," said Larry Springer, spokesman for fuel transport
company Enbridge, of PHMSA inspections in the Bakken.
Officials fined three oil companies for wrongly handling
Bakken fuel in February, but the $93,000 in penalties against
Hess, Marathon Oil Corp and Whiting Petroleum Corp
have already been modified and may yet be reduced
PHMSA has collected more than 80 fuel samples, and officials
have said the DOT could offer preliminary findings soon on its
review of Bakken fuel.
One trade group, the American Fuel & Petrochemical
Manufacturers (AFPM), has tapped a third party to collect data
from its members.
The AFPM, voice for the refining sector, has said it hopes
that arm's-length reporting will protect proprietary data while
still satisfying regulators.
DOT officials recently singled out the American Petroleum
Institute, the leading voice for the oil industry, for failing
to deliver on a January promise to share data. An API spokesman
on Friday said the group was striving to answer officials'
Regulators have not received information from Plains All
American, the midstream energy company whose 105-rail
car shipment caught fire in Virginia this week, or other large
shippers and terminal operators including Hess, EOG,
Musket and refiners such as Tesoro and Phillips 66
(Additional reporting by Kristen Hays in Houston; Editing by
Ros Krasny, Sandra Maler and Prudence Crowther)