CP track reopened after crude-by-rail derailment and fire west of Lanigan

Guernsey, Sask. – Canadian Pacific (CP) released a short updated statement on Dec. 10 regarding the crude-by-rail train derailment near Guernsey, Sask, west of Lanigan. The derailment occurred on one of CP’s principal mainlines.

“At approximately midnight local time on Dec. 9, 34 cars of a CP train hauling crude derailed west of Guernsey, Saskatchewan.

“There were no injuries and no evacuations. Fires at the site are now contained, and CP’s HazMat team continues to reduce and extinguish what fires remain. The team is working closely with local firefighters. Highway 16 remains closed due to the derailment.

“CP re-opened the rail line this morning (Dec. 10) once all track repairs and safety inspections were complete.

“Crews are working diligently to ensure the area is cleaned up and restored.

“An investigation into the cause of the derailment is ongoing.”

Transportation Safety Board spokesperson Alexandre Fournier told Pipeline News on Dec. 10 that “Investigators accessed the site this morning. It’s been secured enough for them to access it this morning, so the actual site work has begun today. Now they started collecting data and documenting the site, taking pictures, doing interview with crews. We’re looking to determine how many cars derailed, how many cars breached, the amount of product released.”

The derailment and subsequent fire occurred at the end of the driveway of Melanie Loessl, who lives six kilometres from Guernsey. The Canadian Press reported that she was made aware of the event when firefighters arrived at her home about 1:45 a.m. Her video, posted on social media, showed an intense fire among the derailed cars.

As of 2 p.m. on Dec. 10, Highway 16 remained closed in the area. The Highway Hotline website said, “An alternate route is available south of Plunkett on Highway 365 toward Watrous, then north along Highway 668 to Guernsey.”

Earlier this year, another crude-by-rail derailment occurred south of St. Lazaire, Man., early in the morning of Feb. 16. The event was coincidental in that it occurred in relatively close proximity to a rally held in Moosomin, Sask., where federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs spoke about the need for pipelines like the cancelled TC Energy (formerly TransCanada) Energy East project. That project was initially planned to be in service by the end of 2018.

The TSB’s Fournier said the report of that investigation could be expected about a year from now, as timelines for such investigations are around 600 days. That derailment involved 37 cars on a CN track. While crude oil was spilled, there was no conflagration like what occurred at Guernsey on Dec. 9.   

The Canada Energy Regulator website shows Canadian crude oil exports by rail were 319,594 bpd in September, the most recent data reported. It has bee slowly climbing throughout the summer and fall, after a rapid rise in the springtime. December 2018 saw 353,789 bpd of crude by rail exports, only to have that number fall by two thirds to a low of 122,292 bpd in February 2019. By June 2019, that number had climbed to 286,701 bpd. For reference, a unit train typically has a capacity of 60,000 to 70,000 barrels of oil.

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