The chemicals that are used in hydraulic fracking (or simply fracking) may contribute to oil explosions and disasters, according to preliminary investigations by the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration.
Fracking is the process by which small incisions are made into rock formations with high-pressured streams of liquid; resources such as petroleum and natural gas may then flow up through the fissures. The method is remarkably efficient at extracting certain raw materials from the earth, but it does not come without a host of risks, such as potential well-water contamination.
Now the Federal Railroad Administration is investigating whether or not the chemicals used in fracking, such as hydrochloric acid and hydrogen sulfide, are contributing to the corrosion of oil tankards on rail cars. Such corrosion could easily lead to more oil disasters on rail lines. Investigators were led to study the issue in part due to the tragic train accident in Canada which claimed the lives of forty-seven people; the train wreck involved the explosion of crude oil, which is generally not given to combust. The investigation involves North Dakota oil, which was involved in the Canadian crash and which has been the subject of concern from some pipeline officials in that state
Oil officials also alerted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that oil out of North Dakota contained very high levels of hydrogen sulfide, a chemical that can seriously effect the central nervous system and lungs.
Train authorities are currently resisting pressure to retrofit their cars in order to make them safer and less likely to rupture if a train jumps the tracks. The Railroad Administration’s investigation will reveal more about the potential hazards of fracking chemicals in rail cars, but it’s clear that the rail industry needs to take every available caution wherever it can to avoid tragedies like the one in Canada