North Dakota Delegation Statement on Sandia Study on Bakken Crude

Study Shows Bakken Crude is Comparable to Other U.S. Crude Oil, Not More Volatile

BISMARCK, N.D. – Senators John Hoeven, Kevin Cramer and Representative Kelly Armstrong released the following statement regarding Sandia National Laboratories’ study that found Bakken crude has comparable physical, chemical and combustion characteristics as crude from the Permian Basin and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The Sandia study bolsters the delegation’s efforts to overturn a Washington State law requiring crude oil unloaded in the state to meet a 9 psi Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP), which would effectively block the Pacific Northwest as a destination for Bakken crude oil. 

“The Sandia study proves that Bakken crude is not more volatile than other crude oil produced in the United States and can be safely and efficiently transported using the same standards as other oils,” said the delegation. “This study shows that the Washington State law has no basis for targeting Bakken crude.” 

Earlier this month, Hoeven, Cramer and Armstrong led a bicameral letter urging PHMSA to preempt the recently-passed Washington State crude-by-rail law. The letter supports the petition filed by the States of North Dakota and Montana, stressing that the Washington State law violates the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) primary authority over the shipment of crude oil within the United States and the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. 

Additionally, in June, the delegation contacted Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to make the case that the Washington State crude-by-rail law violates the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and interferes with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and its primary authority over the shipment of crude oil within the United States. The call followed a letter sent by the delegation to Washington Governor Jay Inslee, outlining the law’s unscientific basis and lack of a solid legal foundation.  

Current North Dakota regulations require companies to extract the most volatile gases from Bakken crude oil to guarantee the vapor pressure does not surpass 13.7 psi. North Dakota state officials established that threshold based on a national guideline for stable crude oil, which is 14.7 psi.