Washington, D.C. – The Subcommittees on Energy and Oversight today held a joint hearing to examine the characteristics and behavior of crude oil produced from the Bakken region in North Dakota, Montana and Canada. A report released by the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) in July 2014 concluded that Bakken petroleum “is more volatile than most other types of crude – which correlates to increased ignitability and flammability.” However, witnesses today including from the Department of Energy (DOE), agreed that that such a claim requires further evaluation.

Energy Subcommittee Chairman Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.): “Petroleum from the Bakken region recently passed 1 million barrels per day, which accounts for approximately 12% of total domestic production.  This is an important resource for the United States and it deserves due attention. The assertion that volatility necessarily correlates to increased ignitability and flammability have generated significant controversy.”

Testimony from both PHMSA and DOE witnesses clarified the context of volatility, explaining that petroleum from the Bakken region is properly classified as a “light, sweet crude oil” and not outside the norms for light crude oils. Further, the DOE witness stated that “more scientific analysis is needed to better define the relationship between volatility and ignitability/flammability.”

Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Paul Broun (R-Ga.): “The Department of Transportation report’s comparison of the Bakken crude, which is classified as a light, sweet crude, to crude oil in general, including heavier crudes, is a bit like comparing apples to oranges because light sweet crudes as a class are generally considered to be more volatile than heavier crudes. Energy independence creates a healthy economy, jobs at home, and directly correlates to our national security by limiting how much we rely on foreign energy imports to survive and prosper.  America is on the road toward energy independence, with domestic crude contributing extensively, and it would be disastrous to impede on this extraordinary possibility.”

The following witnesses testified today before the subcommittees:
Panel I:
Mr. Timothy Butters, Deputy Administrator, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation
Mr. Chris Smith, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Fossil Energy, U.S. Department of Energy                      
Panel II:
Ms. Kari Cutting, Vice President, North Dakota Petroleum Council
Mr. John Auers, Executive Vice President, Turner, Mason, & Company
Mr. Mark Zoanetti, Deputy Chief of Special Operations, Syracuse Fire Department

For more information about the hearing, including witness testimony, visit the Science, Space, and Technology Committee website.