The same day the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Oversight held a joint hearing to better understand the characteristics and behavior of Bakken crude, the Subcommittee issued a press release with this title: “Witnesses Backtrack on Report’s Claim that Bakken Oil is More Flammable.”
The hearing included representatives from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), North Dakota Petroleum Council, Turner, Mason & Co., and the Syracuse Fire Department.
During the hearing, members of the Subcommittee asked a representative of the PHMSA how the PHMSA knew Bakken crude was more volatile than other light sweet crudes. The PHMSA representative, along with another representative from the U.S. DOE on the panel, could not answer directly how PHMSA knew Bakken crude was more volatile. As the hearing continued, it was obvious the lack of information and the unacceptable answering ability of the PHMSA or DOE was causing tension and uncertainty about the PHMSA’s big Bakken claim (PHMSA released a report in July claiming Bakken crude was more volatile than other similar crudes). At least we thought the hearing was tension filled. Emily Aasand kept talking about the hearing as it played out, amazed at what was happening. We talked about the inability of those on the panel to answer a simple question, a question that for the Bakken has great importance.
It is nice to know that our thoughts and perspectives on the hearing—that claims stating Bakken crude is more volatile than other similar crudes are highly inaccurate based on testing performed and in the case of PHSMA, testing not performed—were on point.
Per the Energy Subcommittee press release, “…witnesses today including from the Department of Energy, agreed that such a claim requires further evaluation.”
From the Subcommittee’s Chairman, Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., “This [Bakken crude] is an important resource for the United States and it deserves due attention. The assertion that volatility necessarily correlates to increased ignitability and flammability has generated significant controversy,” adding that, “Testimony from both PHMSA and DOE witnesses clarified the context of volatility, explaining that petroleum from the Bakken region is properly classified as a “light, sweet crude oil” and not outside the norms for light crude oils. Further, the DOE witness stated that more scientific analysis is needed to better define the relationship between volatility and ignitability/flammability.”
And, also worth noting is this from Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga. “The Department of Transportation report’s comparison of the Bakken crude, which is classified as a light sweet crude, to crude oil in general, including heavier crudes, is a bit like comparing apples to oranges because light sweet crudes as a class are generally considered to be more volatile than heavier crudes,” adding that, “America is on the road toward energy independence, with domestic crude contributing extensively, and it would be disastrous to impede on this extraordinary possibility.”