While the environmental impacts of crude oil transportation are usually examined in terms of accidents and spills, Carnegie Mellon University researchers evaluated air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as important externalities.
The assessment relied on data covering locomotive diesel consumption, pipeline pumping station electricity consumption, locomotive and power plant emission factors and the AP2 integrated assessment model, which maps county-level emissions to costs for counties affected by the emissions. Analysis of crude oil transport trends from North Dakota in 2014 reveals that air pollution and greenhouse gas costs of rail shipments are much larger than spill and accident costs.
The air pollution and greenhouse gas costs of moving a 100-car train of crude oil from North Dakota to the Gulf Coast are about $150,000, and from North Dakota to the East Coast are $210,000. Estimated air pollution and greenhouse gas damages for rail shipments of oil from North Dakota in 2014 exceed $420 million.
Air pollution and greenhouse gas costs equal $1,000 per 1 million barrel-miles via rail transportation compared to just under $400 in damages from spills and accidents. For pipelines, it costs $500 in pollution and emissions costs per 1 million barrel miles, while it costs about $50 for spills and accidents.
The findings warrant additional research on the air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions costs of transporting crude oil and other petroleum products, say the researchers.