The catastrophic train derailment near Casselton will shut down the BNSF Railway track for days if not weeks depending on repairs, affecting oil, grain, and freight shipments throughout the region.
“They can’t keep shoving cars toward a derailment,” said Southwest Grain general manager Delane Thom.
The affect on oil production in North Dakota is still being evaluated, since 60 percent of all oil produced in the state leaves on one of a dozen 100-tanker unit trains filled daily.
It was one of those Bakken crude shipments that derailed near Casselton Monday afternoon, causing multiple explosions and a massive fire.
Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources, made a statement Tuesday afternoon: “We will continue to monitor reports from the proper authorities regarding the train derailment in Casselton. We are grateful that no one has been injured from this accident and will continue sending thoughts and prayers for the ongoing safety of the Casselton community.
“At this time, we expect companies to use alternative routes for transportation by rail and do not anticipate the incident to have any short term impacts on production.
“Our department receives data regarding the physical properties of Bakken crude from every Bakken and Three Forks field spaced by the North Dakota Industrial Commission. The Department of Mineral Resources, Oil & Gas Division will assist federal and state efforts in whatever capacity we can by supplying Bakken data. Our division’s technical expertise is limited to the regulatory life cycle of oil and gas wells, and associated facilities. “
Thom said he thinks the derailment leaves the railroad without the ability to go east or west from that stretch of track, which roughly parallels Interstate 94 from one end of the state to the other.
He said the only option around the derailment is to back trains into Montana, where from Glendive trains can hook north onto the Hi-line through Williston or Minot and from Terry can hook south to a branch that runs out through Lemmon, S.D., and east.
Thom said the giant grain shipper has unit trains scheduled weekly and as of Tuesday hadn’t heard a word from BNSF how that schedule will be affected.
“We've got trains headed toward us right now,” Thom said. He said the elevator could possibly stay on a normal schedule if the trains come from the west and depart that direction.
He said it’s possible the railroad will shut down regional trains altogether.
He said Southwest Grain, headquartered at Taylor, will continue to take farmer grain.
“We have (storage) room. We’re not going to suspend anything. We can continue to take grain until we're full,” he said.
Basin Electric Power Cooperative depends on some rail-delivered coal for its power plants, but spokesman Curt Pearson said the co-op’s fuel supply staff is not anticipating any problems.
Spokesmen for the Bakken Oil Express transload at Dickinson and Basin Transload at Zap did not return calls. The two facilities load oil for railroad shippers.
BNSF spokeswoman Roxanne Butler wouldn’t respond to questions about the derailment’s effect on train movement and schedules.
She did say the company has set up a claim center at the Days Inn in Casselton for business and individual losses caused by the derailment, including expenses from being evacuated.
The derailment fire was still burning late Tuesday.