Tag Archives: methanol

Sen. Cantwell: Act now on oil trains

Repost from The Columbian
[Editor:  Significant quotes: 1) “BNSF Railway…has offered training to local responders. But that training “just scratches the surface,” said Nick Swinhart, chief of the Camas-Washougal Fire Dept.”  And  2) “About 88 percent of the cars now hauling crude oil in Washington are the CPC-1232 design, said BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas. The railroad plans to phase out all of its older DOT-111 cars from moving crude within the next year, he said. It also plans to retrofit its CPC-1232 cars with internal liners during the next three years, he added.”  – RS]

Cantwell: Act now on oil trains

Senator pushes for changes to improve safety of hauling crude by rail

By Eric Florip, April 8, 2015, 9:20 PM
U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., walks past a firefighting rig with Vancouver Fire Department Division Chief Steve Eldred during a visit to Vancouver on Wednesday. Cantwell and local leaders highlighted the risks of crude oil being transported by rail. (Steven Lane/The Columbian)

Now is the time to act to reduce the continued risk of crude oil moving through the region by rail, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell said during a visit to Vancouver on Wednesday.

The Washington Democrat and local leaders repeatedly stressed the volatility of the oil itself. Speaking inside Pacific Park Fire Station No. 10 in east Vancouver, the group noted that responders are ill-equipped to handle the kind of fiery derailments and huge explosions that have characterized a string of oil-train incidents across the country recently. In some cases, the fires burned for days after the actual derailment, Cantwell said.

“No amount of foam or fire equipment can put them out,” she said. “The best protection we can offer is prevention.”

Cantwell last month introduced legislation that would immediately ban the use of rail cars considered unsafe for hauling crude oil, and create new volatility standards for the oil itself. The bill would require federal regulators to develop new rules limiting the volatile gas contained in crude that is transported by rail — an important and somewhat overlooked facet of the larger debate over oil train safety, Cantwell said.

Much of the oil that now rolls through Clark County comes from the Bakken shale of North Dakota. Regulators there this month imposed new rules on the volatility of that oil, but critics argue they don’t go far enough. North Dakota, currently in the midst of a historic oil boom, lacks the infrastructure and facilities for more thorough oil stabilization that are commonplace elsewhere.

About two or three oil trains per day now travel through Vancouver on the way to other facilities. A proposal by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies to build the nation’s largest oil-by-rail terminal at the Port of Vancouver would more than double that number. The project, now under review, has fixed a spotlight firmly on Vancouver.

“Although crude-by-rail is a national issue, we firmly believe that Vancouver is the epicenter of the conversation,” said Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt.

Wednesday’s gathering also included two local fire chiefs, who said their crews don’t have the resources to respond to a major disaster involving an oil train. BNSF Railway, which carries crude oil through the Columbia River Gorge and Southwest Washington, has offered training to local responders. But that training “just scratches the surface,” said Nick Swinhart, chief of the Camas-Washougal Fire Department.

“No first responder is fully prepared for the threat posed by crude oil trains carrying highly volatile oil from North Dakota,” Swinhart said, noting his agency has 54 paid personnel. “The fire resulting from just one exploded oil train car, as you can imagine, would overwhelm our resources very rapidly.”

Concerns about oil train safety go far beyond the oil. Much of the discussion has centered around the tank cars carrying it. Cantwell’s bill would prohibit all DOT-111 and some CPC-1232 model tank cars from hauling crude oil. The move would affect tens of thousands of rail cars currently in use, phasing out older models many believe are inadequate for carrying crude.

About 88 percent of the cars now hauling crude oil in Washington are the CPC-1232 design, said BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas. The railroad plans to phase out all of its older DOT-111 cars from moving crude within the next year, he said. It also plans to retrofit its CPC-1232 cars with internal liners during the next three years, he added.

BNSF expects tank cars to improve as designs evolve and federal rules change, Melonas said, and the company welcomes that trend.

“We are in favor of a stronger-designed tank car to move this product,” Melonas said. “In the meantime, we’re taking steps to make sure we’re moving it safely.”

As for whether BNSF supports Cantwell’s bill, Melonas said the company is still evaluating it.

Near the end of Wednesday’s event at the fire station, officials showed Cantwell a large rig equipped with foam tanks and other features. The Vancouver Fire Department acquired the vehicle as mitigation several years ago when Valero, a company operating at the Port of Vancouver, began handling methanol, said Division Chief Steve Eldred.

The Valero site later became NuStar Energy. NuStar has since applied for permits to handle crude oil at the same facility.

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    LATEST DERAILMENT: Train cars hauling methanol derail in central Texas, homes evacuated

    Repost from KCBD, Lubbock TX
    [Editor:   A bit more info on the Bosque County derailment at WacoTrib.comMethanol is flammable (flash point is 11 °C [52 °F]) and potentially explosive.  See more on methanol.    – RS]

    Train cars hauling methanol derail in central Texas

    Mar 21, 2015 5:34 PM PDT

    KXXV News Channel 25, ABC

    Texas authorities are evacuating homes after a dozen train cars derailed near Valley Mills, including five tanker cars carrying methanol.

    Department of Public Safety spokesman Trooper D.L. Wilson says no injuries or fires have been reported from the Saturday evening accident. He says one or two of the methanol-hauling tanks have small leaks.

    Wilson says that as a precaution, about 10 homes within a thousand feet of the derailment have been evacuated.

    He says it’s unclear what caused the derailment, but that heavy rain has been falling in the area. He says the rain is making it difficult for vehicles to get to the scene to unload material from the derailed cars, which also include seven flatbeds carrying oil-well pipes.

    He says a hazardous materials crew is on the scene.

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      Vancouver City Council passes oil moratorium

      Repost from The Columbian

      Vancouver City Council passes oil moratorium

      Unanimous vote approves emergency six-month measure
      By Stephanie Rice, September 11, 2014
      An oil train passes through Vancouver. The Vancouver City Council on Thursday unanimously passed an emergency six-month moratorium on new or expanded facilities that would accept crude oil. The moratorium won’t affect the oil transfer terminal proposed by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies that’s currently under review by the state. (Steven Lane/The Columbian)

      The Vancouver City Council on Thursday unanimously passed an emergency six-month moratorium on new or expanded facilities that would accept crude oil.

      The moratorium won’t affect the oil transfer terminal proposed by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies that’s currently under review by the state.

      While the six-month moratorium was straightforward — a public hearing will be Oct. 20, and it will expire March 10, 2015, unless extended by the council — a last-minute filing muddied the issue.

      The special council meeting was announced Wednesday in accordance with a state law requiring 24-hour public notice. It was meant to head off plans by NuStar Energy L.P. of San Antonio to apply to start storing crude oil at its two bulk tank terminals in Vancouver, one at the port and one at 5420 Fruit Valley Road.

      At 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, a preliminary application was filed by NuStar with the city, said Brent Boger, an assistant city attorney.

      Boger said he doesn’t know whether a pre-application qualifies the project as vested, and therefore exempt from the moratorium.

      A pre-application signals interest to do a project in the city. During a pre-application conference, the applicant learns what the city would require before permits would be issued so the applicant can decide whether to go forward with an application.

      Without a moratorium, NuStar would be allowed to store crude oil under current city zoning, Boger said.

      Jon Wagner, a senior planner, told the council he hadn’t had enough time to thoroughly review the thick packet submitted by NuStar.

      NuStar has handled jet fuel, antifreeze, diesel, methanol and other products at its Vancouver terminals, but not crude oil. In April, NuStar submitted an application for an air quality permit with the Southwest Clean Air Agency to convert a tank at each of its locations to handle crude oil.

      The terminals would receive oil by rail, and then ship it out by barge.

      NuStar spokesman Chris Cho said Thursday the potential crude-by-rail project at the Vancouver terminal is in the early stages of development, but a pre-application was submitted for a building permit to start the lengthy permitting process.

      “If we receive regulatory approvals to build the facility, we anticipate it would handle an average of 22,000 barrels per day — approximately one-third the capacity of one unit train per day,” Cho said. “This project would provide revenue to the port, create jobs, bring more low-cost crude to the region, and further support U.S. energy independence. It would also be a state-of-the-art facility that would be operated safely, in accordance with NuStar’s very high safety standards,” Cho said.

      Cho emphasized that NuStar operates rail facilities at many terminals and invests in safety equipment, technology and specialized training for employees and ensures trains comply with all regulatory safety standards.

      Aside from the NuStar questions, the council focused on wanting the six months to discuss how crude petroleum facilities should be regulated. The proposed moratorium referenced Bakken crude oil, but Councilor Anne McEnerny-Ogle suggested the moratorium cover all crude oil facilities and other councilors agreed.

      The only councilor who objected to the moratorium was Bill Turlay, but he changed his mind and voted with his six peers.

      Initially, Turlay, speaking to the audience that filled the council chambers, said he remembers when many of them showed up to protest coal trains.

      Now it’s oil trains, he said.

      Critics of the Tesoro-Savage facility cite many concerns, including potential oil spills, the volatility of North Dakota Bakken crude and global climate change.

      Turlay, who believes that carbon dioxide has only a negligible effect on climate change, said instead of rushing to a moratorium he wants a public debate about causes of climate change. His comments prompted laughter and groans from the audience.

      Turlay said he does have concern about safety, but trusts the rigorous review by the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council weeds out any dangerous proposals.

      Councilor Jack Burkman pointed out to Turlay that smaller projects need city, not state, approval. Those smaller projects don’t have to be reviewed by the state evaluation council, and that’s the point of enacting a moratorium.

      Councilor Alishia Topper told Turlay the council was doing what he said he wanted, which was to slow down and carefully weigh the pros and cons of additional regulations.

      When it came time for roll call, Turlay said he changed his mind and voted “yes.”

      In June, the City Council voted to formally intervene in the EFSEC process, a legal maneuver giving the city the right to present evidence and appeal.

      The council also approved a broad policy statement opposing any proposal that would result in an increase of Bakken crude oil being hauled through Clark County.

      Tesoro-Savage wants to build an oil-by-rail terminal that would receive an average of 360,000 barrels of crude per day at the port.

      Eventually, the evaluation council will make a recommendation to Gov. Jay Inslee, who will approve or deny the project.

      While the city’s moratorium won’t stop the Tesoro-Savage project, Vancouver resident Jim Luce, a former chairman of EFSEC who opposes the oil terminal, said it could influence Inslee.

      “It sends a signal to the state — and the governor — that the Vancouver City Council is not enthusiastic about siting oil terminals in its backyard,” Luce said Thursday.

      Erin Middlewood contributed to this article.

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