Tag Archives: Canadian Crude Quality Technical Association

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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    Setting the record straight on the oil industry studies of Bakken crude by rail

    Repost from Reuters

    Industry tests of oil train dangers need scrutiny, U.S. officials say

    By Patrick Rucker  |  WASHINGTON, June 2, 2014

    (Reuters) – Oil industry studies concluding that Bakken crude oil is safe to move by rail under existing standards may underestimate the dangers of the fuel and should not be the last word, U.S. lawmakers and industry officials said on Monday.

    In the past year, several doomed oil trains originated from North Dakota’s Bakken region, including a shipment that jumped the tracks and burst into flames in Lynchburg, Virginia, on April 30. Last July, a fiery derailment destroyed the center of the village of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people.

    Two industry-funded studies conclude Bakken fuel is rightly classed as a flammable liquid that can safely move in standard tank cars. The cargo is nothing akin to flammable gasses like propane that must move in costlier, heavier vessels, the oil industry has said.

    But the industry findings hinge on incomplete and out-of-date methods for determining vapor pressure, an important indicator of volatility, that may miss the true dangers of Bakken fuel, according to several industry officials.

    Lawmakers say they expect regulators to scrutinize the industry’s findings.

    “These studies should be taken with a grain of salt,” said Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, a state that is a major pass-through point for Bakken fuel.

    One study released May 20 by the North Dakota Petroleum Council (NDPC) collected samples with open bottles rather than a precision instrument, known as a floating piston cylinder, that is being adopted by the industry.

    Gas can escape with bottle sampling and such tests are unreliable, said the Canadian Crude Quality Technical Association, a trade group.

    “We would consider the data suspect,” the group said.

    ASTM, an international standard-setting body, last month deemed the floating piston cylinder the right tool for Bakken fuel samples. Open bottle samples can skew vapor pressure nearly 10 percent lower, according to research from Ametek, which manufactures testing equipment.

    Industry officials say that any underestimation of vapor pressure would be negligible.

    Vapor pressure results did not exceed 15 pounds per square inch (psi) in the NDPC report.

    A separate study by the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) returned readings below 17 psi.

    The threshold pressure for flammable gas is 43 psi under those same conditions.

    Rich Moskowitz, general counsel for the AFPM, the refining industry trade group, said its report “clearly found that Bakken crude oil is properly transported as a flammable liquid. That’s the bottom line.”

    Industry officials note that the U.S. Department of Transportation has not issued any of its own findings on Bakken fuel despite collecting samples since the summer.

    The issue will likely be raised on Tuesday at a panel of the Senate Commerce Committee which will feature testimony from railroad regulators, among others.

    “It is my hope that any private data collection and studies on this issue will be highly scrutinized,” said Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, who sits on the panel.

    (Reporting by Patrick Rucker; Editing by Grant McCool)
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