Tag Archives: NTSB

NTSB Investigating Lynchburg, Virginia Crude Oil Derailment

Repost from The Legal Examiner

NTSB Investigating Virginia Crude Oil Derailment

Posted by Patrick Austin  |   May 27, 2014

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is taking charge of the investigation of an oil train on April 30 that was hauling crude oil through Lynchburg, Virginia (VA). However, it will be many months before any conclusions are reached and recommendations issued.

According to Investigator Jim Southworth, these incidents happen fast but they take a long time to go through. At this point, the NTSB is gathering facts before moving into analysis. Depending upon how complex the oil accident was, it could take 6-18 months before the report is completed.

csx

Personnel from the Federal Railroad Administration, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Lynchburg’s fire and police departments, labor unions, and CSX Transportation are helping with the investigation, he said.

Several working groups will look at train operations, communications, mechanics, the track and several other areas. These groups then will meet each day to share the information they glean. The preliminary investigation has shown that the train had 105 cars of crude oil and was traveling under the 25 MPH speed limit when the train derailed. Three cars were dumped into the James River.

A total of 13 cars on the CSX train derailed on April 30 at 2:30 PM as it rolled through Lynchburg. Three tankers broke out in flames and nearby residences and businesses had to be evacuated.

CSX removed all of the cars that did not derail, in coordination with local first responders. The railroad also is now doing an environmental assessment that includes air, water and land-based assessments of potential environmental effects.

Share...

    All about the unsafe DOT-111 tank car

    Repost from The News Tribune, Tacoma, OR
    [Editor: This article is a good start, but it leaves much unsaid.  Information and disinformation abounds regarding the DOT-111 tank car, designed in 1964.  There are retrofitted (improved) versions of the DOT-111, but they are a small percentage of DOT-111’s currently in use, and are not REQUIRED BY LAW for transport of hazardous materials … and even these retrofitted cars are considered by many to be unsafe.  A place to begin learning more is Wikipedia.  Even better is this NTSB document,  or this by New York Senator Schumer  … and especially this technical publication by Turner, Mason & Company.   See also the authoritative and exhaustive American Association of Railroads’ Field Guide to Tank CarsThe City of Benicia should condition Valero’s Crude By Rail proposal by requiring tank cars of the latest and safest designs for all deliveries, with stiff requirements for daily verification and harsh penalties for violations.  – RS]

    Old oil tanker cars, old regulations, new danger

    The News Tribune | April 22, 2014

    Freight trains have an excellent overall safety record, which is why we don’t flee at the sight of them. But the growing numbers of oil trains rumbling through Washington ought to be making us nervous.

    U.S. petroleum production – especially at the Bakken formation in North Dakota – has been expanding far more quickly than the nation’s pipeline capacity. As a result, the crude oil is getting carted across states by train and by truck. Let’s take a closer look at the tanker car that hauls much of that oil through Western Washington.

    It’s called the DOT-111, a 1964 design. The Bakken oil that exploded catastrophically in Quebec last July, killing 47 people, was being carried in DOT-111 cars.

    Five years ago, the National Transportation Safety Board investigated a low-speed train crash in Illinois in which 15 DOT-111 cars carrying fuel-grade ethanol went off the rails. Thirteen of the cars ruptured; the resulting explosion killed a motorist waiting at the crossing.

    The NTSB did the math: 13 out of 15.

    “This represents an overall failure rate of 87 percent,” it concluded, “and illustrates the continued inability of DOT-111 tank cars to withstand the forces of accidents, even when the train is traveling at 36 mph, as was the case in this accident.”

    The NTSB noted that the basic DOT-111 lacks many puncture-resistance systems and has a thinner shell than cars designed to carry extremely hazardous liquids, such as chlorine. It reportedly is well-suited for things that don’t blow up, like corn syrup.

    Bakken crude – as the Quebec disaster demonstrated – is turning out to be unexpectedly volatile and even explosive. It shouldn’t be in the older DOT-111 fleet – newer models are reputedly safer – if the cars aren’t retrofitted with heavier steel armor and other safety features.

    The American petroleum boom caught regulators and railways with their pants down.

    Railroad companies didn’t have enough modern, thick-walled tanker cars, so the DOT-111s were pressed into service. Spills and explosions have resulted. The U.S. Department of Transportation hasn’t come up with the tighter tank-car standards the new reality obviously demands.

    Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray held a hearing that put Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on the hot seat. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine asked Foxx when the new oil train standards would be arriving.

    “My target date is as soon as possible,” he said.

    Four years ago – when North Dakota ran out of pipeline capacity – would have been better timing.

    Share...

      Outgoing chair of NTSB: U.S. not prepared, not enough NTSB investigators

      Repost from Bloomberg News

      Communities Not Prepared for Worst-Case Rail Accidents: NTSB

      By Patrick Ambrosio Apr 22, 2014 7:38 AM

      Bloomberg BNA — Deborah Hersman, the outgoing chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said April 21 that U.S. communities are not prepared to respond adequately to worst-case accidents involving trains carrying crude oil and ethanol.

      Answering questions following her farewell address at the National Press Club in Washington, Hersman said U.S. regulators are behind the curve in addressing the transport of hazardous liquids by rail. She said federal regulations have not been revised to address the increase in rail transport of crude oil and other flammable liquids—an increase of over 440 percent since 2005.

      Hersman, who is leaving her post at NTSB April 25 to serve as president of the National Safety Council, said the petroleum industry and first responders don’t have provisions in place to address a worst-case scenario event involving a train carrying crude oil or ethanol. She said several catastrophic accidents have involved crude oil, including a July 2013 train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, that resulted in 47 fatalities.

      The NTSB, in conjunction with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, identified regulatory steps that could be taken by the Transportation Department to address safety risks, including expanded route planning requirements for crude oil shipments, the addition of a requirement for carriers to develop response plans for incidents involving crude oil shipments and increased audits of shippers and carriers to ensure that hazardous liquids are properly classified.

      Hersman said the NTSB scheduled a two-day forum to hear from first responders and the petroleum and rail industries on safety issues. The forum, which will be held on April 22-23 in Washington, will include discussions on tank car design, emergency response to releases of flammable liquids and federal oversight of crude oil and ethanol transport, according to an agenda posted on the NTSB’s website.

      Tank Car Safety

      When asked about the adequacy of the DOT-111 rail tank car to carry crude oil, Hersman reiterated the NTSB’s position that the tank cars are not safe to carry hazardous liquids.

      The NTSB recommended in 2009 that all new and existing tank cars in crude oil and ethanol service be equipped with additional safety design features, including enhanced tank head and shell puncture resistance systems, top fittings protection and bottom outlet valves that remain closed during accidents.

      “We have said that they are not safe enough to carry hazardous liquids,” Hersman said about the DOT-111 legacy cars. “Carrying corn oil is fine, carrying crude oil is not.”

      The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration is working on a proposed rule to update the federal design standards for DOT-111 rail tank cars used to transport hazardous liquids. The consensus among industry and regulators is that new design standards are needed, but there is disagreement over whether the new safety requirements should be more stringent than the CPC-1232 standard, a voluntary industry standard adopted for all new tank cars ordered after Oct. 1, 2011.

      Staffing Limitations Said to Delay Work

      NTSB staff needs support from Congress to fulfill their mission, Hersman said. At present, she said the NTSB is involved in more than 20 rail accident investigations but only has “about 10 rail investigators.”

      “We’re going to have to turn down accidents that occur in the future because we have too much on our plate.”

      Share...