Tanker Trains Spill Far Less Oil Than Pipelines Or Trucks

This weekend, the town of Lac-Megantic in Quebec was practically leveled when rail cars carrying petroleum came off the track and ignited.

Five people were killed and 40 remain missing. Canadian PM Stephen Harper said the town looked like a “war zone.”

Safety is always a major concern with the various modes of energy transport.

According to data compiled by Dagmar Etkin of the group Environmental Research Consulting, rail transport is much less spill-prone than hauling oil by car or pipeline. We wrote about this in April.

Here’s the table: road transport sees nearly twice the rate of gallons spilled per billion gallons transported than rail.

oil infrastructure

It’s also worth noting that pipelines actually saw more gallons spilled per billion gallons transported than rail. Reuters’ John Kemp adds a good comment about this:

… in the three years from 2010 to 2012, just two people were killed per year by incidents involving liquids pipelines, and three more injured, according to PHMSA records. Three more were killed pear year by gas transmission pipelines and 23 injured.

Notwithstanding occasional explosions and spills, pipelines have proved safe, and the number of fatalities and amount of materials lost per mile of pipeline is falling.

Tank cars carried by rail may be somewhat riskier, but the statistical record so far shows it is much safer than carrying oil by truck.

A tragedy for sure, but it’s unlikely to make much of a dent in how crude gets moved.

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