CP: Broken Rail Caused Oil Train Derailment in Wisconsin
By The Associated Press, November 11, 2015, 9:33 P.M. E.S.T.
WATERTOWN, Wis. — Canadian Pacific Railway says a broken rail caused an oil train derailment in southeastern Wisconsin last weekend.
The railroad said Wednesday the defect was not visible to the naked eye.
More than a dozen cars of a CP train loaded with crude oil jumped the tracks in Watertown on Sunday afternoon, puncturing one car that spilled hundreds of gallons of its load and caused the evacuation of a neighborhood.
The railroad says it uses rail flaw detector cars that use ultrasonic technology to detect defects the eye cannot see. The technology last passed over the site in late September, and nothing was found.
The derailment happened a day after a BNSF Railway freight train derailed Saturday near Alma in western Wisconsin, spilling ethanol into the Mississippi River.
Repost from the Billings Gazette [Editor: Note the industry terminology: “BNSF attributes the July 16 incident…to ‘thermal misalignment,’ also known as sun kink, which occurs when rail tracks expand when heated and buckle.” …Will we see more of this with global warming? – RS]
Heat caused Montana train derailments, BNSF says
By Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Nov 4, 2015
CULBERTSON — Two July train derailments in Eastern Montana, including one that spilled 35,000 gallons of Bakken crude, were caused by tracks that buckled in the heat, according to BNSF Railway.
BNSF attributes the July 16 incident that caused 22 oil tankers to derail east of Culbertson to “thermal misalignment,” also known as sun kink, which occurs when rail tracks expand when heated and buckle.
The company also attributes the same cause to the July 14 train derailment about 10 miles west of Culbertson, said BNSF spokesman Matthew Jones.
The Federal Railroad Administration said Tuesday the agency’s investigation into the derailments is still ongoing.
BNSF reported to the FRA that the two derailments caused $3.2 million in damage, including nearly $2 million in equipment damage and more than $1.2 million in track damage.
In the July 16 incident, a westbound train containing 106 crude oil tankers that had been loaded in Trenton, N.D., derailed about five miles east of Culbertson. Twenty-two tankers derailed, with five cars releasing oil, according to information submitted to the FRA.
BNSF and contractors recovered the spilled oil and removed and replaced about 3,900 cubic yards of contaminated soil, Jones said.
On July 14, nine cars on an eastbound mixed merchandise train derailed west of Culbertson, but the cars remained upright and did not cause a spill.
BNSF inspects tracks and bridges more frequently than required by the FRA, including visual inspections and inspections using rail cars equipped with advanced technology, Jones said.
Meanwhile, a legislative audit released last week highlights weaknesses in Montana’s oversight of rail safety, calling attention to a lack of emergency response resources in northeast Montana.
The report by the Montana Legislative Audit Division said the state’s rail safety inspection program is not adequate and first-responders are not adequately trained and equipped to respond to incidents involving hazardous materials.
Northeast Montana does not have a regional hazmat team, primarily due to a lack of hazmat trained and equipped firefighters and the lack of a full-time, salaried fire department, the report said. The closest hazmat team is in Billings, 300 miles from Culbertson.
When a new oil transloading facility in East Fairview, N.D., is at full capacity, Montana may see as many as 40 oil trains each week, the report said.
Montana’s Public Service Commission, which discussed the audit during a meeting Tuesday, would need statutory authority and resources from the state Legislature to expand its oversight of rail safety, said Eric Sell, a spokesman for the agency. Sell noted that the Federal Railroad Administration has primary oversight of rail safety.
BNSF train derailments that were caused by the tracks occurred at a rate of 0.38 incidents per million train miles last year, Jones said, noting the rate is 50 percent better than 10 years ago.
Another recent train derailment involving Bakken crude near Heimdal, N.D., remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. Six oil tankers derailed and four caught fire in May.
• Feds identify broken rail as primary cause
• Flaw detected in two prior track inspections
• CSX, contractor will pay $25,000 in fines
WASHINGTON – Two separate tests in the two months prior to a fiery oil train derailment in West Virginia earlier this year showed the presence of a rail defect, according to a report on the incident.
But neither the railroad nor the contractor who did the tests followed up on the results in December 2014 and January 2015, and the rail broke under a 107-car CSX train loaded with Bakken crude oil. The Feb. 16 derailment near Mount Carbon, W.Va., led to explosions, fires and the evacuation of 1,100 nearby residents.
On Friday, the Federal Railroad Administration said it had issued $25,000 civil penalties against both CSX and Sperry Rail Service, the contractor that performed the rail tests.
The railroad agency recommended that both companies enhance employee training and use improved technology. It also asked CSX to establish a plan to identify and correct track defects on routes used to ship crude oil.
Noting that track flaws are a leading cause of derailments, Sarah Feinberg, the agency’s acting administrator, said railroads hauling hazardous materials need to pay closer attention to track conditions.
“All railroads, not just CSX, must be more diligent when inspecting for internal rail flaws or when contracting out inspection work,” she said in a statement.
In a statement, CSX said it would develop additional inspection processes in collaboration with federal regulators.
“CSX intends to pursue these efforts to their maximum potential as part of our commitment to the safety of the communities where we operate, our employees and our customers,” said Kaitlyn Barrett, a spokeswoman.
According to the agency’s report, 24 of the 27 derailed tank cars sustained significant damage that released oil, fueling fires and explosions even in single-digit temperatures. One resident’s home was destroyed by fire, but no one was seriously injured or killed.
The Mount Carbon wreck was among six oil train derailments in North America this year and one of four in the U.S. All revealed vulnerabilities in the kinds of tank cars used to transport oil, as well as shortcomings in the inspection and maintenance of track and rail car wheels.
In April, the Federal Railroad Administration recommended improved wheel inspections. A broken wheel was suspected in the March 6 oil train derailment near Galena, Ill., though the agency has yet to announce an official cause.
In May, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced its final rule requiring more crash and fire resistance for tank cars used to transport flammable liquids, including crude oil and ethanol.
The recent push for improved track and tank cars in North America followed the July 2013 oil train disaster in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, where 47 people died. On Friday, a U.S. bankruptcy judge approved a $343 million settlement with the families of the victims.
Rail defect, tank car valves implicated in West Virginia oil train fire
By Curtis Tate, April 16, 2015
WASHINGTON — Outlet valves underneath four tank cars in a February oil train derailment in West Virginia were sheared off and the 50,000 gallons of crude oil they released ignited in a fire that subsequently caused several nearby rail cars to explode, according to a federal report.
The report also identified the initial cause of the Feb. 16 derailment in Mount Carbon, W.Va., as a broken rail on track owned and maintained by CSX and said more than 362,000 gallons of crude oil were released. The fires and explosions from the derailment kept 300 residents away from their homes.
The report, which appeared Thursday in the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s hazardous materials incident database, highlights another issue with the design of the tank cars used to carry crude oil and their ability to resist damage from derailments and fire exposure.
The Mount Carbon derailment was one of four oil train derailments since the beginning of the year that resulted in large fires. On March 5, an oil train operated by BNSF derailed near Galena, Ill. Two other oil trains derailed in Ontario on Canadian National, one in February and one in March.
Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board issued recommendations that tank cars used to transport flammable liquids must have thermal insulation to protect them from the kind of fire exposure that can result in explosions.
Federal regulations require tank cars to survive 100 minutes of fire exposure. However, eight tank cars failed within 90 minutes after the derailment, their contents exploding in giant fireballs, according to the NTSB.
The NTSB recommendations did not address the apparent cause of the initial fire: the failure of the bottom valves on the cars used in unloading.
A set of new regulations on tank car construction the government may release in the next few weeks include requirements to remove bottom valve handles or to protect them from opening in a derailment. But they would not require the valves’ removal altogether.
Removing the valves would mean expensive modifications at unloading facilities that have popped up across the country as a surge in energy production has moved by rail in recent years.
Members of Congress impatient with the pace at which new regulations have moved have begun introducing legislation to require more robust tank car construction. Regulators and lawmakers also are pushing for increased track inspections.
Federal law requires that railroads inspect most mainline track twice a week, with at least one calendar day between inspections. A CSX regional vice president told reporters a day after the derailment that the track in Mount Carbon had been inspected three days earlier.
Rob Doolittle, a CSX spokesman, said in an email Thursday that the company looked forward to learning more about the Federal Railroad Administration’s accident investigation.
“Safety is CSX’s highest priority and we carefully evaluate the ascribed cause of each incident to apply whatever lessons are available to make our operations safer,” he said.