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ND crude may be more flammable than thought

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Crude oil produced in North Dakota may be more flammable and prone to explosions than earlier thought, U.S. officials said on Thursday as they examine whether gas trapped in crude-by-rail shipments could explain a spate of fiery accidents.

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In the latest crash involving fuel produced in an oil patch known as the Bakken, several tank cars exploded after a collision on a desolate stretch of North Dakota track on Monday. In that case, as with several other recent accidents, the explosion’s force shocked investigators.

The incidents “indicate that the type of crude being transported from the Bakken region may be more flammable than traditional heavy crude oil,” the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said.

New drilling methods like hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have unlocked vast oil deposits and producers eager to maximize profits often try to supply refiners off the national pipeline grid who are willing to pay more for the fuel.