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Exploding Oil Tank Cars: Why Trains Go Boom 144

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Marcus Stern and Sebastian Jones report on Bloomberg that as federal regulators continue investigating why tank cars on three trains carrying North Dakota crude oil have exploded in the past eight months, energy experts say part of the problem might be that some producers are deliberately leaving too much propane in their product, making the oil riskier to transport by rail. Sweet light crude from the Bakken Shale formation has long been known to be especially rich in volatile natural gas liquids like propane and while there's no way to completely eliminate natural gas liquids from crude, well operators are supposed to use separators at the wellhead to strip out gases before shipping the oil. The worry is that some producers are adjusting the pressure settings to leave in substantial amounts of natural gas liquids and purposefully selling their crude "fluffed up" with propane to maximize their profits." (Read more, below.)

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