Understanding Government and Railroad Strategy for Crude Oil Transportation in North America

MIT Project Information

NuRail Project IDNURail2012-MIT-R03
Project TitleUnderstanding Government and Railroad Strategy for Crude Oil Transportation in North America
UniversityMassachusetts Institute of Technology
Project ManagerSussman
Principal InvestigatorSussman
PI Contact Information
Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization)$100,000 NURail
Total Project Cost$
Agency ID or Contract NumberDTRT12-G-UTC18 (Grant 1)
Start Date2014-09-01
End Date2015-06-30
Brief Description of Research ProjectOn July 6, 2013, an oil-laden unit train derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, Canada, killing 47 people, shocking and saddening many, and leading to significantly increased public scrutiny of crude oil transported by rail. Simultaneously, there has been intense scrutiny of proposed pipelines from the oil/tar sands in Alberta, most notably the TransCanada Keystone XL. Not only is there concern about the potential environmental impacts of the pipelines themselves, such as a potential spill of diluted bitumen, but there is also concern about the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the energy-intensiveness of bitumen production and refining.
- Address railway safety of crude oil transport assuming the railroads are going to continue to transport crude oil. Using the Lac-Megantic accident and the Canadian railway regulatory environment as context, use the accident investigation tool CAST (Causal Analysis based on STAMP) to describe the hierarchical safety control system
for transporting crude oil by rail.

- Evaluate the tradeoffs of railroads versus pipelines using the Keystone XL (i.e. Alberta to the US Gulf Coast) as its case study. Specifically, consider not only the direct impacts of the transportation system itself along economic, environmental, and safety dimensions, but also how it interacts with the oil sands production system to impact economic development, energy security, and climate change. Rely heavily on the information researched in the US Department of State Final Environmental Impact Statement (2014), but also critique the findings in this document using
Describe Implementation of Research Outcomes (or why not implemented)
Impacts/Benefits of Implementation (actual, not anticipated)
Web Links
Project Website
Final ReportNURail2012-MIT-R03_Transportation_of_Energy-Related_Material_-_Carlson_final_report.pdf