Secret Consequences of the Bakken Shale Play: Nationwide Bomb Trains

For those unfamiliar, the Bakken shale fields are currently the largest oil development in the Nation, second only to Texas' oil fields.  This Bakken "shale play" straddles Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota, extending Northwards into Canada's Saskatchewan and Manitoba provinces.  Discovered in 1951, the oil fields lay dormant until the recent fracking craze hit fossil fuel giants.

These days, we Americans are fracking everything in sight.

What's the problem?

Well, the usual suspects of course (benzene, methane, waste brine, etc.); but this project has given birth to an entirely new hazard... so-called "Bomb Trains."

Since sufficient pipeline infrastructure doesn't exist to transport this — much more unstable than regular crude — oil to the refineries, the oil companies have taken to using the Nation's railways to transport it.  Due to the sheer volume of oil, giant tanker car behemoth trains (100+ cars) are running through our streets and dangerously close to our protected waterways.

The tanker cars used to transport this oil are unpressurized general service DOT-111's (now banned in Canada), long known to be problematic for safely transporting crude oil.

What kinds of problems you ask?

These kinds of problems... What about our clean energy future? #StopOilTrains

For an in-depth look at the problem, history of events, and risks from train bombs, see this excellent video from Vice News: The Crude Gamble of Oil by Rail: Bomb Trains

"Crude oil wasn't supposed to explode... until it started exploding."

This is no ordinary crude.

Besides the birth of train bombs, drilling the Bakken shale has made North Dakota "the deadliest place to work in America."

So, looking to MIT for its supposed climate leadership, what can we expect from it relative to the exceptional environmental and human safety risks of drilling the Bakken shale?

MIT Energy Initiative-sponsored research intended to encourage continued drilling...

"The ongoing competitiveness of these resources depends on improving the productivity of new tight oil and shale gas wells, which has in part been enabled by new technological advances in drilling techniques and hydraulic fracturing.  However, according to MIT research, these gains may be significantly overstated because industry “sweet-spotting”—drilling in the most productive locations in a field—is not being properly considered in current production forecasts...

In a new paper in Applied Energy, Justin Montgomery, a graduate student in civil and environmental engineering who is also a MITEI researcher, and Francis O’Sullivan, MITEI’s director of research, describe the application of a statistical approach that can reliably distinguish between the impact that changes in well location and technology have on the productivity of a well...

Montgomery and O’Sullivan tested five different models using data combed from a 42-month period and nearly 4,000 wells drilled into North Dakota’s Middle Bakken and Three Forks formations, the primary oil- and gas-producing layers of the Williston basin.  In recent years, thousands of wells have been drilled into these stacked rock layers and well designs have rapidly evolved, making it an ideal region for the study."

Now that’s climate action leadership... MIT style.

Climate Action Punchline:  It has been reported that billionaires like Warren Buffett — his Berkshire Hathaway, proud owner of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF) and tank car manufacturer Union Tank Car — have been quietly funding mainstream climate groups in their fights against U.S. oil pipelines using secretive offshore foundations.

The result?

The secret funding of green efforts — to suit fossil fuel’s ulterior motives — saw blocking of the Keystone XL pipeline (good thing), and the explosion (pun intended) in oil-by-rail from 9,500 cars to 450,000 annually (bad thing).

Who are the real people behind this secretive green funding?

"A group of individuals whose psychological temperament is better described as psychopathic rather than altruistic." — Joel Bakan (no pun intended), The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power

"Sadly, the far-right is far more interested than the 'progressive greens' and climate justice activists themselves, in the motives behind U.S. foundations funnelling millions of dollars in funding to further promote all energies and focus on the Tar Sands campaign: a campaign that concentrates almost exclusively on the Keystone extension while oil via rail, expedited pipeline projects and fracking continues to skyrocket.... The only crowd that seems most disinterested in understanding, let alone acknowledging, the millions of dollars being funneled into this campaign are the organizations/activists beholden to et al – who are in turn, beholden to their funders."

Block a pipeline, buy a bomb train.

How’s that for climate hypocrisy?

Again, another lesson in “follow-the-money” and refusing fossil fuel’s infiltration of your climate action efforts.

Nothing good will ever come from it.