Tag Archives: New Brunswick Canada

New Brunswick derailment: some tank cars fared better than others

Repost from McClatchy DC News

Tank car upgrades effective in derailments, Canadian report shows

By Curtis Tate, McClatchy Washington Bureau, June 19, 2015

Tank car improvements required by the U.S. and Canadian governments last month should cut the risk of spills and fires in oil train accidents, Canadian investigators have concluded.

The finding came from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s investigation of on a derailment in January 2014 in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick.

While the report pinpointed a broken wheel as the cause, the derailment provided a rare side-by-side comparison of the performance of two different types of tank cars in use for decades on the North American rail system.

A type of tank car called the DOT-112 survived the Plaster Rock derailment with no impact damage, according to the report, released Friday. Four such cars carrying butane derailed.

In contrast, two DOT-111 cars carrying crude oil sustained punctures, spilling more than 60,000 gallons. The spilled oil caught fire.

The DOT-112 cars have features very similar to the new DOT-117 standard unveiled by regulators on May 1. Both include half-inch thick shields that fully protect both ends of the car, thicker 9/16-inch shells and thermal insulation around the tank shell enclosed with an additional layer of steel.

Typically, the DOT-111 cars have 7/16-inch shells and none of the other protections.

As McClatchy reported last year, the DOT-112 was beefed up after a series of catastrophic tank car explosions in the 1970s that killed railroad workers and firefighters and caused extensive property damage. After the 112 was upgraded, the accidents subsided.

But the DOT-111 fleet remained unchanged, even when railroads began hauling larger quantities of ethanol a decade ago, followed by crude oil five years ago.

The Canadian report lists 13 other rail accidents involving crude oil or ethanol since 2005 that illustrate the vulnerabilities of the DOT-111. Three of those derailments took place this year, including two in Ontario and one in West Virginia.

The list also includes the 2013 disaster in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, which resulted in 47 fatalities. The families of the victims and their attorneys earlier this month unanimously ratified a proposed $350 million settlement package.

The U.S. Department of Transportation last month required that new tank cars carrying crude oil and ethanol meet the DOT-117 standard beginning in October. Tank car owners, which are typically railcar manufacturers, financial firms and energy companies, must comply with a series of retrofit deadlines for DOT-111 cars that are spread out over a decade.

The oil industry says the timeline is too short, while environmentalists say it’s too long. Both have since taken the department to court.

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    NRDC Attorney: The tar sands invasion that can be stopped

    Repost from NRDC Switchboard, Danielle Droitsch’s Blog

    The tar sands invasion that can be stopped

    Danielle Droitsch
    Danielle Droitsch, senior attorney with NRDC, Canada Project Director, International Program.

    By Danielle Droitsch, April 28, 2015

    Many across the United States are aware of the tar sands threat posed by the proposed Keystone XL pipeline but what many may not know is the U.S. faces a looming threat that is bigger than just this one pipeline. We call it a tar sands invasion. The plan would be to complete a network of pipelines (both new and expanded), supertankers and barges, and a fleet of explosive railway tank cars. What is at risk? San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound, the Great Lakes, the Hudson River and other places we all call home. While the threat of this invasion is already here with the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the good news is that citizens across North America are rising up to respond and repeal the assault with a clear message: Not by pipeline, not by rail, not by tanker. The good news is that public opposition to tar sands oil is rising and projects like Keystone XL and Northern Gateway have been delayed. The tar sands assault is not inevitable. In fact, the U.S. doesn’t need this dirty form of fuel and neither does Canada. The time has come to limit tar sands expansion in favor of a cleaner and brighter energy future.

    Tar Sands Invasion Map 4-27-15.jpg

    A new report released by NRDC reveals that the amount of tar sands crude moving into and through the North American West Coast could increase by more than 1.7 million barrels per day if industry proposals for pipelines, tankers and rail facilities move forward. For more information about this new information see posts by my colleagues Anthony Swift and Josh Axelrod. Why the west coast? With the majority of the world’s heavy oil refinery capacity, the United States including the west coast is a critical market for the tar sands industry. To be clear, Keystone XL still remains at the heart of the industry plan to expand tar sands and gain access to the global market. But industry is still pushing hard for other ways to expand especially as KXL flounders. It is important to keep in mind the tar sands industry – which currently produces about 2 million barrels per day (bpd) – plans to triple production to exceed 6 million bpd in the next fifteen years. The oil industry has made clear it needs all of its rail and pipeline proposals to achieve its massive production goals.

    We know that the tar sands industry and Canadian government has long had a plan to quadruple or more tar sands extraction in Canada. KXL has always been a huge part of that. But it is now very clear that they also plan to access the U.S. and global market through every means possible.

    This threatened invasion puts our communities, waters, air and climate in jeopardy. The Tar Sands Solutions Network has done an outstanding job outlining many of the different campaigns that are emerging across North America. This plan threatens to expose communities from California to New York to health, safety and environmental risks unless the public rallies to stop it. Here are some of the specific impacts that North America faces as a result of the tar sands invasion:

    • Across the West Coast, tar sands laden tanker and barge traffic could increase twenty-five fold, with a projected 2,000 vessels along the Pacific West Coast– including the Salish Sea and the Columbia River–shipping nearly two million barrels of tar sands crude every day.
    • A dozen proposed rail terminals would substantially increase tar sands by rail traffic going through densely populated American citizens like Los Angeles and Albany New York risking explosive derailments of hazardous crude unit trains
    • Nearly a million barrels of tar sands would be destined for California and Washington refineries, exposing fenceline communities in Anacortes, San Francisco and Los Angeles to increasing toxic air pollution.
    • In the Midwest, the pipeline company Enbridge is moving to nearly double the flow of tar sands moving through the Great Lakes region, an area that already has suffered from a 2010 spill of more than 800,000 gallons of the tar sands into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan sending hundreds of residents to the hospital. Four years later, the cleanup, which has cost more than $1 billion, is still unfinished.
    • On the East Coast, the tar sands industry is seeking to build the Energy East pipeline across Canada. The pipeline would run from Alberta east across Canada to New Brunswick and Quebec, carry 1.1 million barrels of tar sands oil per day and require hundreds of oil tankers traveling along the East Coast and Gulf Coast annually, through critical habitat of the extremely endangered Right Whale.
    • In Albany, New York, a proposed oil transfer facility could lead to the shipment of tar sands oil on barges down the Hudson River or rail cars along the river destined for facilities in the New Jersey and Philadelphia areas.
    • In Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire, the constant threat of a proposed reversal of the aging Portland-Montreal Pipeline is likely to arise again as Enbridge completes work on a pipeline reversal that will connect the tar sands directly to Montreal this summer.
    • This network of pipelines will feed refineries that produce millions of tons of hazardous petroleum coke waste – known as “petcoke” – which are piling up in residential neighborhoods like Chicago.
    • In Canada, pipeline companies are trying to access the west and east costs with pipeline proposals that would ship the heavy tar sands oil across pristine landscapes in British Columbia or across the Prairies into Ontario and Quebec. Communities are raising concerns about the threat of a spill to waters from the pipeline or tankers leaving the Bay of Fundy of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
    • And last but not least, communities in Alberta at ground zero have been facing the enormous consequences of tar sands development which has brought about significant contamination of water, air, and land. Increasingly, there are calls for a moratorium on development.

    Targeting at risk communities

    The tar sands invasion puts a high toll on low-income and aboriginal communities located in railway corridors, near oil refineries, and next to petcoke waste sites. In refinery fence-line communities, emissions associated with tar sands are suspected to be even more detrimental to human health than existing harmful emissions from conventional crude. Derailments of tar sands unit trains – mile long trains carrying over a hundred tankers full of explosive tar sands crude – pose a catastrophic risk for communities throughout the country. And as more tar sands oil is refined in the United States, the public will also face increased health and environmental risks from massive piles of petroleum coke, a coal-like waste full of heavy metals that results from tar sands oil refining and can cause serious damage to the respiratory system.

    Industry would like for you to believe that tar sands development is inevitable and there is nothing that can be done. Wherever they turn today they are being faced with public opposition. Expansion is not inevitable, especially because of this growing and formidable opposition.

    A climate problem

    It is clear that tar sands reserves – some of the world’s most carbon intensive – are at the top of the list of reserves that must remain in the ground. Mounting scientific and economic analysis shows that the tar sands industry’s proposed expansion plan is incompatible with global efforts to address climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that 75% or more of discovered fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground in order to limit warming to the international two degrees Celsius goal. The clear inconsistency between tar sands expansion and efforts to address climate change have made opposition to tar sands expansion projects a clear rallying point for a broad group of allies advocating for action on climate.

    A water problem

    A tar sands spill from train, pipeline, or tanker could devastate local economies, pristine wilderness, harm human health, and lead to an especially costly and challenging cleanup. Tar sands spills have proven more damaging than conventional spills, as heavy tar sands bitumen sinks below the water surface making it difficult to contain or recover. A spill from shipping the tar sands crude could devastate communities, contaminate freshwater supplies or marine habitats and damaging local economies.

    Undermining efforts to grow our clean energy economy

    The growing exploitation of Alberta’s tar sands threatens to undermine North American efforts to build a clean energy economy and combat global climate change. Because most tar sands crude is destined for the United States, its expansion would create a greater dependence on the world’s dirtiest crude oil and undermine our transition to environmentally sustainable energy and a cleaner transportation fleet. Responding to the tar sands invasion will require solutions reduce fossil fuel use and spur low-carbon transportation and energy solutions such as broadened electric vehicle use and development of renewable and clean fuels.

    This tar sands invasion can be stopped: Clean Transportation Solutions

    The good news is this tar sands invasion can be stopped starting with leadership from government officials to embrace climate and sustainable transportation solutions. NRDC’s report for the west coast outlines detailed recommendations for decision-makers at all levels. The first step is for decision-makers at all levels to become familiar with the unique issues associated with tar sands oil and then to actively identify the full range of solutions to confront this problem. Without action, the U.S. will unintentionally become a thoroughfare for this oil undermining climate policies and presenting risks to communities and water. With support for regional clean energy policies, we can prevent the influx of tar sands crude and build the green infrastructure and public support necessary to begin transitioning to a clean energy economy.

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      10 Recent Oil Train Crashes in the US and Canada

      Repost from ABC News
      [Editor:  It’s good to find a compilation of these catastrophic oil train accidents all in one place.  See also a listing on SafeBenicia.org, somewhat out of date but with more detail and photos.  – RS]

      Recent Oil Train Crashes in the US and Canada

      By The Associated Press, May 1, 2015, 3:28 PM ET

      Sweeping regulations to boost the safety of trains transporting crude oil, ethanol and other flammable liquids were announced Friday by U.S. and Canadian officials. The long-awaited regulations are a response to a series of oil train accidents in both countries over the last few years that have resulted in spectacular fires that burned for days.

      Here are some of those accidents:

      — July 5, 2013: A runaway Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train that had been left unattended derailed, spilling oil and catching fire inside the town of Lac-Megantic in Quebec. Forty-seven people were killed and 30 buildings burned in the town’s center. About 1.6 million gallons of oil was spilled. The oil was being transported from the Bakken region of North Dakota, the heart of an oil fracking boom, to a refinery in Canada.

      — Nov. 8, 2013: An oil train from North Dakota derailed and exploded near Aliceville, Alabama. There were no deaths but an estimated 749,000 gallons of oil spilled from 26 tanker cars.

      — Dec. 30, 2013: A fire engulfed tank cars loaded with oil on a Burlington Northern-Santa Fe train after a collision about a mile from Casselton, North Dakota. No one was injured, but more than 2,000 residents were evacuated as emergency responders struggled with the intense fire.

      — Jan. 7, 2014: A 122-car Canadian National Railway train derailed in New Brunswick, Canada. Three cars containing propane and one car transporting crude oil from Western Canada exploded after the derailment, creating intense fires that burned for days. About 150 residents of nearby Plaster Rock were evacuated.

      — Jan. 20, 2014: Seven CSX train cars, six of them containing oil from the Bakken region, derailed on a bridge over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. The bridge is near the University of Pennsylvania, a highway and three hospitals. No oil was spilled and no one was injured. The train from Chicago was more than 100 cars long.

      — April 30, 2014: Fifteen cars of a crude oil train derail in Lynchburg, Virginia, near a railside eatery and a pedestrian waterfront, sending flames and black plumes of smoke into the air. Nearly 30,000 gallons of oil were spilled into the James River.

      — Feb. 14, 2015: A 100-car Canadian National Railway train hauling crude oil and petroleum distillates derailed in a remote part of Ontario, Canada. The blaze it ignited burned for days.

      — Feb. 16, 2015: A 109-car CSX oil train derailed and caught fire near Mount Carbon, West Virginia, leaking oil into a Kanawha River tributary and burning a house to its foundation. The blaze burned for most of week.

      — March 10, 2015: 21 cars of a 105-car Burlington Northern-Santa Fe train hauling oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota derailed about 3 miles outside Galena, Illinois, a town of about 3,000 in the state’s northwest corner.

      — March 7, 2015: A 94-car Canadian National Railway crude oil train derailed about 3 miles outside the Northern Ontario town of Gogama. The resulting fire destroyed a bridge. The accident was only 23 miles from the Feb. 14th derailment.

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        Albany NY Area officials say crude-oil transport is getting safer

        Repost from The Press Republican, Plattsburgh, NY
        [Editor: the safety improvements showcased here are far from adequate, nevertheless, it’s a good update on conditions in New York.  Sen. Schumer is absolutely right – the DOT-111 tank cars should be taken out of service immediately… and not just in New York.  And Bakken crude should be stabilized before it is transported (not just conditioned) … just as it is in Texas.  – RS]

        Area officials say crude-oil transport is getting safer

        Lohr McKinstry, December 6, 2014

        LEWIS — New state regulations on crude-oil trains should help make them safer, Emergency Services officials from Essex and Clinton counties said recently.

        State agencies have implemented 66 actions designed to strengthen standards, regulations and procedures to make the transport of crude oil by rail and water in New York safer and to improve spill preparedness and response.

        Gov. Andrew Cuomo received a status report outlining the progress made by multiple state agencies after they were directed to evaluate the state’s capacity to prevent and address crude-oil accidents.

        Local leaders have been concerned about the 100-car-plus oil trains moving through Clinton and Essex counties as the crude oil extracted in North Dakota arrives via Canadian Pacific Railway trains.

        The oil is on its way to the Port of Albany, where it is stored for transport to various refineries.

        IMPROVEMENTS

        Essex County Emergency Services Director Donald Jaquish said he sees the new procedures as a safety benefit to the North Country.

        “It’s a step in the right direction,” he told the Press-Republican. “We’re in a better position than we were a year ago.”

        There’s been concern the trains could derail, and the oil burn or explode, as it has in other regions, and Jaquish praised Canadian Pacific for trying to make the tracks and tank cars safer.

        “Upgrading the DOT-111 tank cars, rail replacement and maintenance, and specialized training are all beneficial to safety.

        “Canadian Pacific has been helping us with training, hands-on-experience, that first responders need for these situations.”

        EVACUATION PRACTICE

        The tank cars are not owned by Canadian Pacific but by oil companies and vendors, and as a federal common carrier, the railroad is required to transport them.

        Both the railroad and federal regulators have pushed for upgrades to the DOT-111 single-shell cars or a switch to the stronger DOT-109 or 112 cars.

        “In almost any situation we get, we will be doing evacuations,” Jaquish said. “We’ve been working with Clinton County on planning and implementation.”

        Clinton County Emergency Services Director Eric Day said any improvements to the transport of oil cars are welcome.

        “At the end of the day, what they’ve done is good, no question,” Day told the Press-Republican. “Any regulatory move to make the DOT-111 cars safer is a plus. It’s a long time coming.”

        One problem is that there are thousands of DOT-111 tank cars still in service, he said.

        “There are so many of them (DOT-111 cars) out there on the tracks. They’re not going to stop moving the oil before they fix the cars. The oil is not going to stop coming any time soon.”

        STATE GUIDANCE

        Day said enhanced state regulations on oil shipments will be helpful.

        “If there are changes that are pushed upon them (shippers), it can only make it safer. We’ve seen some of the benefits of the state’s work with regard to planning,” he said.

        “We have guidance now on firefighting potential on dealing with these things. There are so many variables. Multiple cars of this crude oil on fire are a different animal.”

        He said that, thanks to a donation, they now have the foam needed for such fires. The expensive product costs $30,000 for 1,000 gallons of foam but puts out crude-oil-based fires.

        VOLATILE GAS

        The North Dakota Industrial Commission has proposed draft regulations to remove the volatile gases from the oil before it is shipped, and Day said that provision is a good one.

        “One of the things that makes the Bakken crude so volatile are the gases in the oil. The gas works its way out and is stuck in the head space of the car. If they breech, there’s flammable gas; cars that aren’t breeched and heat up, the gas could expand and be a problem.

        “Removing that gas is a possibility before they put in the cars and ship it. If they could do that, it’s a big win.”

        FEDERAL ROLE

        Cuomo called for the federal government to mandate tank-car upgrades or replacement.

        “The federal government plays a vital role in regulating this industry, and Washington must step up in order to expedite the implementation of safer policies and rules for crude-oil transport,” he said in the release.

        The governor said the oil-production industry has resisted stronger tank-car standards and regulations requiring companies to reduce the volatility of crude before shipment.

        A new report from the Brattle Group for the Railroad Supply Institute, a trade group, showed that a proposed federal rule to upgrade rail-tank cars could cost $60 billion.

        According to the report, the high price tag is largely due to the costs associated with potential modifications to tank cars, early retirement of existing tank cars, temporarily using trucks instead of rails for transport and lost service time for tank cars under modification or awaiting modification.

        ‘TIME BOMBS’

        U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) has also come out against use of DOT-111 cars.

        “These outmoded DOT-111 tank cars … are ticking time bombs that need to be upgraded ASAP,” the senator said in a news release.

        “That is why for two years, since the tragedy at Lac-Megantic, I have pushed federal regulators to phase out and retrofit these cars.

        “As a result of our efforts, the federal Department of Transportation has put a proposal on the table that could start taking these cars off the tracks within two years, as well as restrict the speeds at which these trains operate.”

        On July 6, 2013, a 74-tank-car train carrying Bakken light crude derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, and the tank cars exploded, killing 47 people, destroying 30 buildings and spilling 1.5 million gallons of heavy crude oil.

        That disaster was followed by oil-train-explosion derailments in Alabama, North Dakota, Illinois and New Brunswick, Canada.

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