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October 15, 2001
Volume 79, Number 42
CENEAR 79 42 p. 10
ISSN 0009-2347
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Hazardous materials transport stops; meanwhile, oil and gas prices drop


Rail shipments of some chemicals were halted in the U.S. last week as a precaution in the wake of the U.S. and British air attacks on Afghani military and terrorist targets. Meanwhile, energy and chemical raw material prices continue to erode, contrary to what is usually expected in a conflict taking place near the Middle East.

"We were on a heightened state of alert and underwent activities to ensure the security of the system."

Spokesman for the Association of American Railroads

As part of a self-imposed "red alert," the U.S. rail industry stopped accepting shipments of "certain hazardous materials" for about 72 hours, starting on the afternoon of Oct. 7, when the bombardment began.

The Association of American Railroads, a trade group that represents the rail industry, would not detail which materials were singled out. A group spokesman, however, did note that most chemicals considered hazardous were unaffected by the measures. "We were on a heightened state of alert and underwent activities to ensure the security of the system," he added.

Though the alert has been lifted, some measures that the railroads implemented will remain in place. These include reassessing security, sharing information with national security officials, increasing security patrols, restricting some operations near public events, and conducting thorough background checks of prospective employees.

Trouble in Afghanistan, however, hasn't pressured chemical feedstock prices in the Middle East. In fact, prices have been slipping; prices for Brent crude dropped from $27.54 per barrel on Sept. 7 to $21.87 on Sept. 28.

Natural gas prices, an important indicator of Gulf Coast ethylene feedstock prices, are about a quarter of what they were at the beginning of the year.

One analyst observes that the conflict has affected demand for basic chemicals like ethylene more than anything else.

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