Air Quality Protection
Environmental Impact
Rail & Pipe Safety Comparison
Rail Safety
Regulatory Authorities
SDS Sheets
Spill Protection

Air Quality Protection

IMG 0553

Altex Energy air quality control starts with each truckload being tested for H2S. Any loads over prescribed limits are not allowed to unload at the Terminal. This creates a safe operating environment for all people on site. Altex Energy has a continuous improvement practice with each new generation of transload technology and retrofits new technologies into older sites. The two basic loading system Altex uses have different control systems.

IMG 0555DSC 9701

Direct Truck to Railcar - Closed Loop
Altex Energy utilizes a closed loop system. The trucks connect to the gantry system with a fluid transfer hose, the gantry connects to the railcar through a seal top loading hatch system. The hatch system has a vapour line which returns any vapour from the railcar back to the transport truck.

Truck to Tank to Railcar - Vapour Capture P1000119To support faster unloading of trucks and quicker loading of railcars Altex Energy offloads trucks into tanks. Any air displaced from the tanks is captured through a vapour collection system. This same system captures vapour displaced from the railcar when loading from the tanks. All of the captured vapours are then incinerated to destroy any harmful emissions.

Incinerator - Vapour Destruction
The captured vapours are blended with methane gas and burnt in an incinerator at 600 degrees. The  low levels of H2S in the oil allows the incinerator to be effective to 99.9% destruction of VOCs with final emissions of CO2 and water vapour. 

Questor 3000









Environ Pipe Rail


Air Quality Monitoring

As part of our committment to air quality Altex has membership in Peace Air Zone Association (PAZA) PAZA is a nonprofit, multi-stakeholder organization which conducts ambient air quality monitoring in northwestern Alberta. PAZA is an unbiased, open and transparent organization, and their members collaborate to provide local solutions to local air quality concerns. PAZA, as an independent third-party, has invested ten years into building trust among members of the public, industry, non-governmental organizations, Alberta Environment, Energy Resources Conservation Board, and Alberta Health Services.

Environmental Impact

Rail Infrastructure is already in place – minimizes surface and environmental footprint. There is less disturbance of natural ecosystems during construction.

Energy Efficient

CN can move one tonne of freight 197 kilometres on just one litre of fuel.
Graph Rail Cleaner

Rail & Pipe Safety Comparison


Comparing Rail and Pipeline Safety

Incidents as a Determining Factor of Safety

There has been a lot of discussion by industry analysts, governments, government agencies and the general public about rail versus pipeline safety for transporting crude oil. On balance, the perception among these groups appears to be that pipelines are safer than rail for moving crude oil.


Some of this perception comes from a study by the Fraser Institute citing that pipelines are safer than rail because rail has more incidents with releases than pipelines. Using only the number of incidents to arrive at this conclusion, one would have to assume that all incidents are equal in spill volume and distance travelled which could hardly be true. This flaw in the comparison has led to the unwarranted conclusion that pipelines are safer than using rail.

Incident Rate

An other study by Oliver Wyman resolves the issue by combining three incident elements into an Incident Rate as shown below:

  1. The total volume of crude spilled by each mode (annual gallons)
  2. The total volume each mode transports (annual gallons)
  3. The total distance the crude oil is moved (annual miles)

Incident Rate = Number of incidents / (total volume x total miles)

The result of this normalized unit of measure can be seen below.

(Courtesy: Oliver Wyman and the Railway Association of Canada)

Exhibit 3: Canadian Crude Oil Incident Rates for Pipelines and Class I Railways10
  Pipelines Class I Railways
Year Number of Incidents


Transported (billions)

Incident Rate Number of Incidents Gallon-Miles Transported (billions) Incident Rate
2004 301 19,533.1 0.0154      
2005 336 17,876.7 0.0188      
2006 299 20,054.2 0.0149      
2007 335 20,273.5 0.0165      
2008 293 20,694.0 0.0142      
2009 250 20,588.6 0.0121      
2010 262 20,950.3 0.0125      
2011 277 26,105.5 0.0106      
2012 291 28,627.3 0.0102 19 1,918.3 0.0099
201311 41 18,262.5 0.0022 50 4,400.7 0.0114
2014 122 33,933.1 0.0036 21 6,159.9 0.0034
Total 2,807 246,899.4 0.0114 90 12,478.9 0.0072
Source: Oliver Wyman and Railway Association of Canada, Canadian Crude Oil Transportation, Comparing the Safety of Pipelines and Railways, December 2015
10Statistics Canada, Table 133-005, Operating Statistics of Canadian Pipelines Carriers; Railway Association of Canada; Oliver Wyman analysis.
11 Note table excludes pipeline volumes and incidents for February 1 to June 15, 2013, due to the lack of availability of Alberta incident data during the transition of incident monitoring responsibility from the Energy Resource Conservation Board to the Alberta Energy Regulator.


Another way to look at making a direct comparison can be found in the Fraser Institute’s study. The table below from this study shows the release gallons per billion ton-miles  of rail, pipeline and road modes. This is a nominalized unit of measure for comparison. Based on that metric railways release 3,504 gallons compared to 11,286 gallons for pipelines. On that basis,  pipelines spill 3.2 times more oil than rail.

If the conclusion about whether one mode is safer than another is based on spills, then the conclusion would be that rail is safer than pipelines.

Faser Table 11

Source: Furchtgott-Roth & Green, Studies in Energy Transportation, Fraser Institute, October 2013

Comparing Crude Oils Transported by Pipeline and Rail

The term crude oil is used broadly in the public discussion. However, there are a wide variety of crude oils with varying characteristics based on density (or API), flashpoint, sulphur content and many other items. An industry website lists many of these characteristics. Further detailed discussion about the properties of western Canadian oil can be found on the Alberta Innovates website here.

Pipeline Specifications

Generally, the literature revolves around oil that meets specifications for shipping in a pipeline; an example of which for Enbridge can be found here. Typically, the specifications are that the density of oil at 15C can not exceed a density of 940kg/m3 (or ~19 API) and kinematic viscosity of 350 cSt (or how sticky the oil is).

Video: Diluted Oil - Pipeline Specifications

Because oil is pushed long distances through the pipeline, it has to flow well which is why it can’t be too sticky (low viscosity) or too heavy (too dense). Lighter crude oils will flow easily but heavy crudes are too sticky and dense and have to be diluted with a condensate (a volatile, low flashpoint, light hydrocarbon referred to as a diluent).


When heavy crudes are diluted with a diluent, the mixture is called dilbit. Generally, the ratio of diluent to heavy crude is about 70% oil, 30% diluent. While this lowers the viscosity of the oil (makes it less sticky) it also greatly lowers the flashpoint of the original heavy crude.

Flashpoint is the lowest temperature where enough fluid can evaporate to form a combustible concentration of gas. The lower the flashpoint of the oil the easier it is to ignite.

The flashpoint of a conventional heavy crude is about 150C. Heavier crudes such as bitumen will range much higher to over 200C. In contrast, diluent flashpoints are typically less than -35C. A 150C flashpoint heavy crude mixed with a -35C flashpoint diluent on a ratio of 70% - 30% will result in the dilbit mixture having a flashpoint of about 20C (or slightly less).

Since a normal room temperature is about 20C, this means that this dilbit mixture would give off ignitable vapours at about room temperature.

Railway Specifications

Rail transport has no specifications for the product itself. It does not matter about the density, viscosity, water content or anything else as it relates to the physical movement of the product. That’s because the product is contained within a rail car. The rail car moves on the tracks and carries the oil with it. The rail car is analogous with diluent in that they both “carry” product in their transportation modes.

The Less Diluent the Better for Rail and Overall Safety

The economics of shipping crude using rail depends on there being little to no diluent in the oil. Therefore, industry is driven by economics to not add volatile diluent to rail crude oil shipments. The vast majority of the crude oil shipped by Altex contains no diluent and is pure heavy crude in the range of 986 kg/m3 (or 12 API) and a flashpoint in excess of 150C. Altex has shipped some “under diluted” crude oil having about 12-15% diluent. This is under diluted mixture is sometimes called “railbit”.

Should a rail car rupture, undiluted heavy oil will not flow quickly at room temperature as the video above shows. Any oil leaking from the rail car will be thick and sticky and will not produce any explosive vapours.

Video: How Heavy Oil Flows When Diluted and Under Pressure

Burnaby, BC

Mayflower, AR

Since the car is not under pressure, the oil will tend to stay in place rather than flow into the environment as diluted oil would and especially when diluted oil is under pressure as it is in pipelines.

Therefore, transporting undiluted oil is inherently safer than diluted oil because it won’t create ignitable vapours at typical outside temperatures and it will tend to want to stay in place should there be a spill.


A more balanced conclusion, as shown by the data, is that both railways and pipelines are very safe modes of transport for crude oil. And while the goal is always to have zero releases into the environment, both are very near zero especially when viewed from the amount of crude oil moved over the distance travelled.

When looking at the type of oil moved, heavier crude oils are suited to move by rail since they do not need to be diluted and hence are far less volatile and will not easily escape into the environment. Lighter crude oils are suited to move by pipeline since they can flow easily in a pipeline without dilution.

Rail Safety

Rail Cars

The rail cars used to transport the crude oil are double hulled with heavier shield plates on the ends.Insulated Tank Car They have steam tubes to reheat the oil for removal at destination. Rail Tank Car Regulations

Rail Car Spills

Historically there are significantly fewer barrels of oil spilled by rail than pipeline. In addition, the oil in pipelines is designed to flow easily in order to facilite pumping. The heavier oil loaded and hauled by Altex becomes thicker once the Rail Car Spills
heat is removed so the oil does not flow. If there ever was an accident with a railcar the contents would be contained in a very small area.

Pipeline Safety

RR Accident Charts

Railroads: M
oving America Safely

An article published by the Association of American Railroads states "todays railroads are safer than ever before". Click here to view whole article.

The Association of American Railroads has a great website that explains railroad safety.

RR Safer Chart


Regulatory Authorities

There are a host of agencies that monitor and approve the construction and operations of the Altex facilities. As well as Altex working with the local communities to establish levels of monitoring that provides comfort to the citizens.

The Railway Association of Canada has a website that groups regulatory authority all of the regulations that may apply to railways.
Alberta Environment oversees water and air quality.
Petroleum Tank Management Association of Alberta monitor storage tank installations
Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has numerous directives establishing parameters of design and operation
Alberta Transportation regulates all railways under provincial jurisdiction
Transport Safety Board of Canada also regulates rail systems
The National Fire Code of Canada (NFC) 2010 provides minimum fire safety requirements for buildings, structures and areas where hazardous materials are used, and addresses fire protection and fire prevention in the ongoing operation of buildings and facilities

Rural Municipality of Wilton No. 462
Government of Saskatchewan – Government Relations
Economy – Government of Saskatchewan
Labour Relations and Workplace Safety

SDS Sheets

Safety Data Sheets

Altex Energy loads and ships two general products.  The links below will take you to the SDS sheets for each.  Vehicles and tank cars used to transport these goods must have a SDS placard on them to identify what product is being carried.






Spill Protection

Tank Farms

Altex Energy's tank farms are designed to contain at least 110% of the storage capacity of the tanks. Tank ContainmentThe containment system is rubber lined with a barrier to contain the breach of any tank. The picture on the right shows a tank farm under construction. The tanks are set on concrete bases and the whole tank farm is surrounded with a containment structure. The picture below shows a finished tank farm. Altex tank farms are equipped with radar sensors linked to computer systems which are designed to detect and prevent overflow. Tank Containment 2


Enviro Boxes

Drip TraySmall containment boxes are placed beneath all connection joints to the rail or truck to catch minor drips or leaks. On the right is an image of a box underneath the bottom valve of the rail car before it is checked and sealed.  Below is an image of the drip tray under the truck connection.Drip Tray Truck LowRes


Top Loading

Altex loads all cars from the top as it is safer and does not require large containment under the car. There are two types of systems in use by Altex. One is for direct truck to rail and the other is a gang loading rack. However, each loading system have a safety shut off to prevent over filling railcars. The safey shut off device is the round blue instrument shown below which connected by a cable to the loading computer. Note the Top Loading 1smaller vapour recovery hose. This captures any vapours given off while loading.