Oil Trains

Oil from the Bakken field in North Dakota and Montana is transported via both pipeline and train to refineries in all parts of the United States and Canada.

The maps below show the transport network centered on the Bakken (circled). NOTE: Maps are NOT to same scale!















While oil was discovered in this part of the country many decades before, economic recovery of it did not become feasible until the price of oil rose to high levels in the late 1990s. By 2000, oil recovery from the shale deposit of the Bakken by the process of hydraulic fracturing was underway, BIGTIME! By the end of the first decade of this century, oil production rates had reached a level that exceeded the pipeline capacity to ship oil out of the Bakken. This required oil companies to start shipping excess oil by rail.

Fortunately, this rail network already existed, and in many cases had been expanded to deal with the influx of the SAND required as a vital input in the hydraulic fracturing extraction process (sand coming, in the most part FROM Wisconsin)!

So, at this point, we now have oil on trains, leaving North Dakota heading east (I will not be discussing the oil heading west).

Where does it go and on what railroads? From the maps above, you can see that the Class 1 railroads serving the Bakken area are the BNSF, the Canadian Pacific and the Union Pacific (in Montana). The first two head both east and west, while the UP goes west only out of Montana. The map below shows Wisconsin's rail network with the possible oil train routes dotted in for comparison.


"The disclosures show BNSF Railway is the primary hauler of oil, moving between 26 and 44 trains per week along an eight county route that parallels the Mississippi River in western Wisconsin. Canadian Pacific Railway moves on average four trains a week along a route that crosses from La Crosse southeast to Milwaukee, then down into Illinois. Each train can carry about 3 million gallons of oil.  A third railroad, Union Pacific, submitted a notice saying it does not run Bakken crude oil trains exceeding the 1 million gallon reporting threshold in Wisconsin." - See more at: http://www.gazettextra.com/20140709/oil_trains_moving_frequently_through_wisconsin#sthash.ZpOaPSlN.dpuf

Another way of checking whether YOUR home MIGHT be close to one of these moving bombs is to check the website Oil Train Blast Zone, which lets you enter a street address and shows you how close it is to an oil train route!

Meanwhile, check out the effects of unsafe railcars on the neighbors of these transportation routes on our Oil Trains Mishaps page!