Tag Archives: American Petroleum Institute (API)

DOT: Gas vapor eyed as factor in West Virginia oil train fireball

Repost from Reuters

Gas vapor eyed as factor in West Virginia oil train fireball

By Patrick Rucker, Thu Feb 19, 2015 3:26pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Federal investigators will examine whether pressurized gas played a role in the massive blast that followed the derailment of a train carrying crude oil through West Virginia this week, the U.S. Transportation Department said on Thursday.

Questioning the possible role of gas vapors in the West Virginia fire broadens the debate over how to ensure public safety at a time when drastically larger volumes of crude oil are being shipped by rail and roll through cities and towns.

At least two dozen oil tankers jumped a CSX Corp track about 30 miles south of the state capital, Charleston, on Monday, touching off a fireball that sent flames hundreds of feet into the sky.

The U.S. Transportation Department said it has an investigator at the site to take samples of crude once the wreckage stops burning.

“We will measure vapor pressure in the tank cars that derailed in West Virginia,” said department spokeswoman Suzanne Emmerling.

Some experts say the nature of the explosion, which saw a dense cloud of smoke and flame soaring upwards, could be explained by the presence of highly pressurized gas trapped in crude oil moving in the rail cars.

“Vapor pressure could be a factor,” said Andre Lemieux of the Canadian Crude Quality Technical Association, a trade group which is helping the Canadian government adopt crude oil quality tests.

The American Petroleum Institute, the leading voice for the oil industry, declined to comment on whether high vapor pressure might have played a role in West Virginia.

“What we need to do now is allow the accident investigators to do their jobs,” said Brian Straessle, a spokesman for the trade group.

In the past twelve months, API and the North Dakota Petroleum Council have argued that the dangers of vapor pressure are exaggerated, citing self-funded studies that indicate vapor pressure readings are safe.

The Transportation Department did not call for regulations governing the presence of gas vapors in a national oil train safety plan it drafted last summer and is now with the White House for review.

That plan would have oil trains fitted with advanced braking systems to prevent pileups and tougher shells akin to those carrying volatile propane gas on the tracks.

The question of whether gas vapors make oil shipments more prone to detonate has been kept on the margins of the U.S. debate over transporting oil by rail.

The oil train sector has thrived in recent years, pushed by a crude oil renaissance in North Dakota’s Bakken region.

(Reporting By Patrick Rucker; Ernest Scheyder contributed from Williston, North Dakota; editing by Andrew Hay)
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    Federal Court Order: Explosive DOT-111 “Bomb Train” Oil Tank Cars Can Continue to Roll

    Repost from DeSmogBlog
    [Editor: see also related story at SputnikNews.  – RS]

    Federal Court Order: Explosive DOT-111 “Bomb Train” Oil Tank Cars Can Continue to Roll

    By Steve Horn, 1/23/15

    A U.S. federal court has ordered a halt in proceedings until May in a case centering around oil-by-rail tankers pitting the Sierra Club and ForestEthics against the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). As a result, potentially explosive DOT-111 oil tank cars, dubbed “bomb trains” by activists, can continue to roll through towns and cities across the U.S. indefinitely.  

    “The briefing schedule previously established by the court is vacated,” wrote Chris Goelz, a mediator for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. “This appeal is stayed until May 12, 2015, or pending publication in the Federal Register of the final tank car standards and phase out of DOT-111 tank cars, whichever occurs first.”

    Order to Delay DOT-111 Bomb Trains Case
    Image Credit: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

    Filing its initial petition for review on December 2, the Sierra Club/ForestEthics lawsuit had barely gotten off the ground before being delayed.

    That initial petition called for a judicial review of the DOT‘s denial of a July 15, 2014 Petition to Issue an Emergency Order Prohibiting the Shipment of Bakken Crude Oil in Unsafe Tank Cars written by EarthJustice on behalf of the two groups. On November 7, DOT denied Earthjustice’s petition, leading the groups to file the lawsuit.

    Initially, DOT told the public it would release its draft updated oil-by-rail regulations by March 31, but now will wait until May 12 to do so. As reported by The Journal News, the delay came in the aftermath of pressure from Big Oil and Big Rail.

    “In a joint filing, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the American Petroleum Institute (API) contend the tank car industry doesn’t have the capacity to retrofit the estimated 143,000 tank cars that would need to be modernized to meet the new specifications,” wrote The Journal News. “Nor can manufacturers build new tank cars fast enough, they say.”

    The “bomb trains” carrying volatile crude oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from the Bakken Shale, then, will continue to roll unimpeded for the foreseeable future. They will do so in the same DOT-111 rail cars that put the fracked oil-by-rail safety issue on the map to begin with — the July 2013 deadly explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

    And as DeSmogBlog has reported, industry promises to phase-out DOT-111s on a voluntary basis have rung hollow.

    “The courts and the administration are dragging their feet on common sense safety steps that will take the most dangerous oil tanker cars off the tracks, slow down these trains, and help emergency responders prepare for accidents,” Eddie Scher, communications director for ForestEthics, told DeSmogBlog.

    “We filed our lawsuit because the DOT is not moving fast enough on safety. This court’s decision ignored the imminent threat to the 25 million Americans who live in the blast zone and the communities around the nation that don’t have the luxury of waiting for DOT and the rail and oil industry lobbyists to finish their rule.”

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