Mapped: Which Oklahoma Counties are Crossed by Trainloads of Bakken Crude Oil

  • Joe Wertz

Source: Oklahoma Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Commission

Trains carrying 1 million or more gallons of crude oil from the Bakken formation are expected to cross 20 Oklahoma counties each week, data from the Oklahoma Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Commission show.

Explosive, deadly derailments and fiery accidents have raised safety concerns about rail transport of Bakken crude oil, which tests suggest might be more flammable and explosive than other types of crude oil.

Oklahoma is a major oil hub, and trainloads of Bakken crude traverse the state en route to refineries along Texas’ Gulf Coast. The Bakken Formation stretches across North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada.

Smoke lingers a day after the Bakken crude oil train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, which killed 47 people.

Michael Gagnon / Flickr

Smoke lingers a day after the Bakken crude oil train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, which killed 47 people.

After high-profile accidents in Canada and Alabama, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Virginia, federal regulators issued warnings about train shipments of Bakken crude, and are beefing up safety requirements for oil tank cars. In May, the U.S. Department of Transportation ordered railroads and oil transportation companies to share more information about Bakken oil shipments with state and local emergency officials. Railroad companies, federal agencies and state officials — including those in Oklahoma — wanted to keep that information secret.

Citing terrorism concerns, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental signed confidentiality agreements with railroad companies and, initially, declined to make public data on the oil shipments. But state officials on Aug. 4 released aggregate county-level data after officials with the U.S. DOT said the reports didn’t contain “security-sensitive information,” The Oklahoman‘s Paul Monies reports. Officials in some states, including Washington, didn’t sign confidentiality agreements.

Click around and explore the map to see how Bakken crude moves by rail across Oklahoma. The shipments are concentrated in northeastern Oklahoma, data show. Craig County ranks the highest: Up to seven shipments of 1 million or more gallons of Bakken crude are expected to cross the county each week, the data show.

Rail companies expect as many as five shipments to cross Mayes, Muskogee, Sequoyah and Wagoner counties each week, and four such shipments are expected to cross Ottawa, Creek and Tulsa counties each week.

Other counties — most in a north-south Kansas-to-Texas corridor — are only likely to see one shipment each week.

Three rail companies — BNSF, Stillwater Central and Union Pacific — are currently shipping Bakken crude across Oklahoma, says DEQ spokeswoman Erin Hatfield.

“The information is updated if there is a change in the number of trains,” she says.