September 12, 2013

Volatility of oil on Quebec train was higher than listed

But officials say using safer tank cars may not have limited the deadly crash's damage. They don't say who made the error, or if it was intentional.

By J. Craig Anderson
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

This July 6, 2013, photo shows the fire in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, following the derailment of a Maine, Montreal & Atlantic train transporting oil.

AP / The Canadian Press

Related headlines

Ross said the oil, bound for Irving's oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick, by way of central Maine, came from 10 suppliers along the Bakken formation.

Each supplier is responsible for testing the volatility of its own oil and classifying it on what is called a material safety data sheet.

Ross said the 10 sheets from the suppliers contained packing groups ranging from one (most volatile) to three (least volatile).

Two sheets were left blank and did not indicate any packing groups, he said.

A subsidiary of Miami-based World Fuel Services was the broker between the oil suppliers and Irving, but Canadian authorities did not specify whether the broker changed the volatility ratings to packing group three for the entire shipment.

A spokesman for World Fuel Services said in an email Wednesday evening that the fuel was "properly categorized as a Class 3 hazardous and flammable liquid and, as confirmed by TSB earlier today, the packing group assigned to this cargo would not have changed the manner in which it was handled, transported, routed or responded to by emergency personnel upon MMA's derailment."

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins issued a statement Wednesday about the investigation.

"We must look at regulations to make sure we are undertaking every precaution to save lives and to protect interstate commerce. Operational safety changes, however, are not enough to address these concerns," she said in the release. "I will also work with the DOT Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration as it begins to examine the existing fleets of tank cars used in shipping crude oil, which will include a thorough review of tank car design and making sure hazardous material shipments are properly identified." 

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

Twitter: @jcraiganderson

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)