Feds question Bakken crude in wake of rail explosions

In the wake of the latest derailment in North Dakota of a train transporting crude oil, regulators and industry officials are wondering why the oil is exploding.

Despite crude being flammable, it is almost never the cause of explosions before being refined into products like gasoline, The Wall Street Journal ($) reports.

But when the BNSF Railway Co. train carrying crude collided with another train, it released a series of explosions on Tuesday.

"Crude oil doesn't explode like that," said Matthew Goitia, chief executive of Peaker Energy Group LLC, a Houston company that is developing crude-by-rail terminals.

Federal investigators, and railroad and energy company officials are investigating whether additives to the crude or incorrect labeling of the liquid contents played a part in the series of explosions.

Pipeline development hasn't been able to keep up with the Bakken's crude production, pushing oil onto trains.

The Federal Railroad Administration, and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration launched a joint probe called the "Bakken Blitz" before the latest explosion in North Dakota, hoping to uncover what impurities might be in the crude oil.