Steck Seeks Increased Safety Regulations for Shipment of Hydraulically Fractured Crude Oil

On September 22, 2014, Assemblymember Phil Steck (NY-D) sent a letter to the attention of North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple, Chair of the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC), for consideration at their September 23 hearing concerning increased safety regulations for shipment of the crude oil being hydraulically fractured from the Bakken Oil Field. This letter had the support of 35 state and local elected officials.

In his letter, Steck asked that the Bakken crude oil be stabilized prior to leaving the oil field and being loaded onto mile-long trains for transport across the United States -eventually being transported though the 110th Assembly District. He stressed that stabilization was vital to ensuring the safety of his district. Within the 110th Assembly District, this volatile oil is transported through densely populated residential areas in the Town of Colonie and the Village of Menands, as well as being adjacent to the Menands School District (.2 of a mile).

However, the working draft order that was presented to the Commission on November 13, 2014 called for the crude oil from the Bakken to be “conditioned” rather than stabilized (in contrast, stabilization is routine at the Eagle Ford Shale field in Texas).

“Unfortunately the end-product of conditioning, as opposed to stabilization, is anoil that is still explosive and in no way substantially reduces the risk for those living in the vicinity of the tracks,” said Assemblymember Steck. “To say I am disappointed is an understatement. The NDIC has a governmental responsibility for the safety of millions of Americans who are gravely threatened by the transport of this oil through their communities.”

Stabilization, which evaporates and re-liquefies all of natural gas liquids (NGLs) from the crude oil, renders the NGLs and the crude as completely separated products. Conditioning lightly “cooks” the oil to remove water and creates an end product where only a fraction of NGL’s are removed.

In addition to his letter, Assemblyman Steck has taken a proactive approach by sponsoring legislation that would protect residents from the transportation of crude oil once it has arrived here. This legislation will increase penalties (A.10086) for trains that block highway crossings and create protections (A.10085) for citizens harmed by blocked crossings.

“While we did not receive the result that we wanted, my work is far from over, I will continue to appeal to both the state of North Dakota and the federal government to guarantee the safety of all residents of the 110th Assembly District and the state of New York.” said Assemblyman Steck “I am also very pleased to see the Governor’s status report that came out on Monday, it is a significant step forward in our continued fight on this issue.”

The North Dakota Petroleum Council funded a study and submitted it for the hearing. Page 8 of that study contains the following quotation, which in sum recognizes that the present equipment located at the Bakken site is not capable of removing the NGLs from the Bakken crude.

“While the companies operating in the Bakken, which participated in our sampling program, use a variety of well site production equipment and operating conditions (production rates, equipment operating pressures and temperatures) which varied across the study, key crude qualities from our study were distributed across a fairly narrow range.

  • The data consistency indicates that field equipment is limited in its ability to significantly
  • impact vapor pressure and light ends content.
  • This is consistent with the expected capabilities of the equipment.
  • The field equipment is designed to separate gas, remove water and break emulsions to prepare crude for transport, and not remove significant levels of dissolved light ends from the crude.”

A link to the study referenced above:

A link to all submissions for the September 23, 2014 hearing: