In this week's news updates, an explosion rocks a California refinery, and a derailed train calls the safety of a tanker car model into question.


Two people suffered minor injuries at an explosion at the ExxonMobile Refinery in Torrance, California, on Feb. 18.

The explosion, which occurred in a gas-processing unit, was reported shortly before 9 a.m., according to fire officials.

Residents, who say the explosion shook their homes as far away as three miles, were told to remain indoors with their doors and windows closed and air conditioners turned off. Students at 13 Torrance schools were also given a shelter-in-place order.

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Fire officials say the explosion was followed by a ground fire, which was brought under control. Ash also fell on streets and vehicles parked nearby.

Aerial footage of the refinery from several TV news stations showed areas of twisted metal and some vehicles covered with debris and ash. One vehicle also had a collapsed roof.


Derailed Train was Hauling Bakken Crude in Upgraded Tankers

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The 109-tanker CSX train that derailed Feb. 16, sending fireballs into the sky and potentially threatening the nearby water supply, was hauling crude using upgraded tanker cars.

The train was carrying Bakken crude from North Dakota to a refinery in Yorktown, Virginia, using model 1232 tank cars, which include safety upgrades voluntarily adopted by the industry four years ago, the Federal Railroad Administration says. 

All but two of the 109 cars being hauled were tanker cars, and 26 of them left the tracks, according to officials.

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The National Transportation Safety Board is now questioning the safety of model 1232 after this incident and several other ruptures and fires in recent derailments involving that model.


North Dakota Crew Camp Wants to Downsize

The Capital Lodge crew camp, located between the North Dakota towns of Tioga and Ray, wants to downsize and become a commercial hotel-style operation, according to a story in the Missoulian newspaper in Montana.

The story reports, however, that Williams County commissioners denied a zoning change on Feb. 12 and now the lodge’s CEO is looking to sell and relocate one-third of its units to McKenzie County.

Capital Lodge is one of the larger crew camps in the Bakken with about 300 workers using the facility. The facility had 140 manufactured units and 1,100 licensed beds.


North Dakota Oil Production Hits Record High in 2014

According to numbers released Feb. 18 by the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, the state’s portion of the Bakken Shale reached record-high numbers in December 2014.

The state produced nearly 1,227,344 barrels of oil per day with 8,826 producing wells, the department says. There were about 750 wells waiting on completion, but drilling permit activity increased in December as operators began to position themselves for 2015 budget scenarios.

The department also pointed out that the current rig count sits at 137 rigs, the lowest since July 2010.


Marcellus Shale Production Breaks Another Record

Shale gas production jumped 30 percent in the Marcellus Shale last year, according to data released Feb. 17 by the state Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The report says that Marcellus Shale drillers produced more than 2 trillion cubic feet of gas in the second half of 2014.

Overall last year, they produced 4 trillion cubic feet – about 16 percent of what the entire U.S. consumes on an annual basis.


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