API Gravity, The Brent and IMDG Code

Today much is been discussed about tumbling Brent crude price and its effect on global economy. While Indians will hail the falling price Venezuelans & Russians will look gloomy. Crumbling Russian rubles and many crying not being translated to cheaper fuel for their cars and bikes is filling the limited pages of newsprint.

Brent Spot monthly by TomTheHandBrent Spot monthly by TomTheHand
Brent Spot monthly by TomTheHand

Let’s look at what is Brent benchmark, API Gravity and Safety in transport of Crude Oil (packaged form). Light and low in sulphur is a better property of crude. There are many benchmarks in international trade of crude such as West Texas Intermediate (WTI), Brent Blend, Dubai Crude, Tapis Crude, Bonny Light etc.

Brent crude with its low sulphur content, sweet, low density is being used as bench mark as oil price around the globe.

Comparing to water, how heavy or light petroleum liquid to water, is API Gravity. The math works as API Gravity = 141.5/Specific Gravity – 131.5. Those who works in oil industry and who sailed on oil tankers will remember this formula.

However the economy goes up or down on crude oil trade, the safety concerns remains same. Due to various development and lessons learned from accidents, today, the latest amendment of Regulations for Transport of Dangerous Goods in Packaged Form list Crude Oil as below.

UN 1267 PETROLEUM CRUDE OIL, Class 3 (Flammable Liquid)

UN 3494 PETROLEUM SOUR CRUDE OIL, FLAMMABLE, TOXIC. Class 3, Subsidiary Risk 6.1 (Flammable, Toxic Liquid)

Sour Crude has higher content of sulphur and it evolves hydrogen sulphide gas which is highly toxic and may cause death in minutes.

Recent accidents involving Bakken Crude has prompted the authorities to look into and issue new guidelines for testing the characteristics of Crude oil and its vapour pressure for safe transport.

We need to learn from accidents, history, and advance of technology for a safer and better tomorrow.