The success of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) created an oil boom from fields in North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation. Without the usual infrastructure such as pipelines or ports in place to move this glut of oil, a new oil-by-rail industry was born to fill that role.
However, as more and longer trains are shipping increasing amounts of Bakken crude oil, North America has seen another consequence of this new industry: train derailments resulting in massive fires and explosions. As a result, these trains have earned a new nickname: bomb trains.
What is at the root of these accidents? How can the industry improve its safety record? Are regulators up to the task?
Check out our ongoing coverage of oil trains.
Main image: Police helicopter view of Lac-Mégantic, the day of the derailment. Credit: Sûreté du Québec police, CC BY–SA 1.0