Bakken shale oil intended for WesPac could contain corrosive acids

Acids used in fracking might be contributing to these terrible train explosions (this from Lac-Mégantic).

Acids used in fracking might be contributing to these terrible train explosions (this from Lac-Mégantic).
















Sometimes it feels like beating a dead horse, but it bears repeating that one of the biggest deficiencies in WesPac’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is that it doesn’t give any specifics about the types of crude oil that might come to Pittsburg. We’re not the only ones saying this. Several of the letters that commented on the EIR mentioned this issue, as did the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, the Refinery Action Collaborative, and even the office of the Attorney General.

The Problems with Bakken shale oil

There are lots of problems with transporting North Dakota’s Bakken shale oil; the most obvious is that it can not stop exploding. The US Department of Transportation has issued an alert, warning that Bakken shale oil is more flammable than regular crude oil. It notes that the oil can ignite at temperatures below 73°F. Imagine that! We’re regularly having days in January in the Bay Area that are warm enough to ignite this Bakken shale oil!

But some people suspect that there is more contributing to the recent explosions. It’s possible that the railcars are puncturing more easily because of acids using in fracking that may remain in the oil that is extracted. These acids can corrode and weaken the railcars. So far, articles only mention hydrochloric acid (HCl), but the incredibly dangerous hydrofluoric acid (HF) is used in fracking elsewhere, and there’s no reason to believe it’s not being used in North Dakota. (We can’t know for sure because frackers have a loophole to avoid reporting what chemicals they inject into the ground.)

NOW, if this leftover acid is corroding railcars, it will also corrode pipelines, pumps, and storage tanks. Since the WesPac EIR does not take this into account, it means that the chances, especially after a couple years of operation, of a leak, rupture, or spill – and therefore the risks of a subsequent fire or explosion – are dramatically underestimated.

Their glib assurances of safety are nonsense. The WesPac project is incredibly dangerous to public health and safety!

For more background, check out our fact sheet about Bakken shale oil.

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