Tag Archives: Railway Supply Institute

Told to fix leaky oil train cars in 2 months, owners sought 3 years

Repost from McClatchyDC
[Editor:  Significant quote: “This year is already the second worst for oil spilled from trains since the federal government began collecting data 40 years ago….trains spilled about 1 million gallons in 2013 alone, vs. 800,000 in all the prior years combined….More than 600,000 gallons of oil has spilled from trains so far this year….”  – RS]

Told to fix leaky oil train cars in 2 months, owners sought 3 years

By Curtis Tate and Samantha Wohlfeil, September 2, 2015 

HIGHLIGHTS
• Washington state spills led to March order from federal agency
• Industry group asked for three-year extension
• Regulators gave owners until end of 2015

The wreckage of an oil train derailment in Mount Carbon, W.Va., still smolders 48 hours after the crash, on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015.

WASHINGTON  |  Railroad tank cars equipped with defective valves still will be allowed to transport crude oil and other hazardous materials through the end of the year, despite a March directive from federal regulators requiring their replacement within 60 days.

The Federal Railroad Administration order followed a Bellingham (Wash.) Herald story about a leaking oil train reported in Washington state in January. The Railway Supply Institute, trade group representing tank-car owners, wrote the agency in April asking for a three-year extension to replace the faulty valves on tank cars that carry hazardous materials.

About 6,000 tank cars were affected by the recall, issued on March 13. On May 12, the day of the original deadline, regulators wrote back to the trade group that the agency found no basis to give tank car owners until 2018 to comply, but nonetheless gave them until Dec. 31, an extension of more than six months.

Officials from the Railway Supply Institute couldn’t be reached to comment.

60   Number of days tank car owners had to comply
with March directive.

The federal order came about a month after crews discovered tank cars leaking from their top fittings while hauling crude oil through Washington state.

In mid-January, a 100-car train loaded with Bakken crude had 16 leaking cars removed at four different stops between northern Idaho and the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Wash.

As the train traveled west along the Columbia River, leaking cars were pulled as they were discovered; at each stop, the entire train was inspected before continuing on to the next location.

BNSF Railway, the train’s operator, said a total of 26 gallons of oil from 14 of the leaking cars was found only on the tops and sides of the cars, and no oil was found on the ground, in a report to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Separately, the Federal Railroad Administration fined the owner of a North Dakota oil loading terminal $10,000 for a spill from a tank car that was discovered in November in Washington state. When the car arrived at a refinery for unloading, inspectors found it coated in oil and measured about 1,600 gallons missing.

State officials first learned of the spill a month after it happened, and no local officials were notified. In March, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission recommended $700,000 in fines against BNSF for failure to report 14 hazardous materials spills within the 30 minutes required by state law.

BNSF has disputed the state regulator’s findings. A hearing is scheduled for January.

Six major oil train derailments this year across North America have demonstrated the continued risks of large volumes of crude oil moving by rail.

Four of those derailments occurred in just four weeks in February and March: two in Ontario, one in West Virginia and another in Illinois. All involved large spills, fires and explosions, but no serious injuries.

Two less serious oil train derailments have occurred since, in North Dakota in May and Montana in July.

600,000   Number of gallons of oil spilled from trains
so far this year.

The rail industry and its regulators have been under pressure from lawmakers and the public to fix tank car vulnerabilities and take more steps to prevent derailments from happening.

The U.S. Department of Transportation issued its final rule on tank car standards for trains carrying oil, ethanol and other flammable liquids on May 1.

The new rule requires a tougher design for the tank cars, including thicker shells, more puncture resistance and thermal insulation to protect against prolonged exposure to fire.

It also requires existing tank cars be retrofitted to meet the new standards, depending on the level of hazard, within two to 10 years. Industry groups have challenged the new rule in court, saying it doesn’t give them enough time to complete the retrofit. Environmental groups have sued as well, saying it gives the industry too much time.

This year is already the second worst for oil spilled from trains since the federal government began collecting data 40 years ago.  A McClatchy analysis of the data last year found that trains spilled about 1 million gallons in 2013 alone, vs. 800,000 in all the prior years combined.

More than 600,000 gallons of oil has spilled from trains so far this year, according to a new analysis of data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Wohlfeil writes for the Bellingham Herald and reported from Bellingham, Wash.
Share...

    NY Times: New Oil Train Rules Are Hit From All Sides

    Repost from The New York Times

    New Oil Train Rules Are Hit From All Sides

    By Jad Mouawad, May 1, 2015
    An oil train rolls through Surrey, N.D., in the Bakken region, where oil production has grown at a spectacular rate in recent years. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

    Ending months of uncertainty and delays, federal regulators on Friday unveiled new rules for transporting crude oil by trains, saying the measures would improve rail safety and reduce the risks of a catastrophic event.

    But the rules quickly came under criticism from many sides. Lawmakers and safety advocates said the regulations did not go far enough in protecting the public, while industry representatives said some provisions would be costly and yield few safety benefits.

    More than two years in the making, the rules followed a spate of derailments, explosions and oil spills around the country that highlighted the hazards of shipping large quantities of potentially explosive material on rails. The regulations introduce a new tank car standard for oil and ethanol with better protections, and mandate the use of electronically controlled brakes.

    Facing growing pressure from members of Congress as well as local and state officials, the Department of Transportation has taken repeated steps in the last two years to tackle the safety of oil trains and reassure the public. Last month, for example, it set lower speed limits for oil trains going through urban areas.

    Under the new rules, the oldest, least safe tank cars would be replaced within three years with new cars that have thicker shells, higher safety shields and better fire protection. A later generation of tank cars, built since 2011 with more safety features, will have to be retrofitted or replaced by 2020.

    Oil trains — with as many as 120 cars — have become common sights in cities like Philadelphia, Albany and Chicago as they make the slow journey from the Bakken region of North Dakota, where oil production has surged in recent years.

    Local and state officials have complained that rail-friendly rules make it difficult to predict when trains will pass through.

    But regulators retreated from a provision that would have forced railroads to notify communities of any oil train traffic. Instead, railroads will need to have only a “point of contact” for information related to the routing of hazardous materials.

    Several members of Congress, particularly those representing states like Washington, Oregon, North Dakota and New York that have seen a surge in train traffic, said the rules did not go far enough and signaled that legislation might be needed.

    Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon said they were disappointed that transportation officials had not expanded public information about oil train routes.

    “Instead of providing first responders more details about oil shipments, railroads will simply be required to give our firefighters a phone number,” they said.

    Railroads said they welcomed the new regulations but objected to a provision that would require tank cars to have electronically controlled pneumatic brakes by 2021. The Department of Transportation said the new brakes, known as E.C.P., are more effective than air brakes or dynamic brakes that are currently being used.

    “The D.O.T. couldn’t make a safety case for E.C.P. but forged ahead anyway,” Edward R. Hamberger, the president and chief executive of the Association of American Railroads, said in a statement. “I have a hard time believing the determination to impose E.C.P. brakes is anything but a rash rush to judgment.”

    The railroad association has estimated in comments filed to the Transportation Department last year that installing the new brakes would cost $9,665 per tank car. The Railway Supply Institute, which represents tank car makers, also pushed against the use of those brakes, saying their effectiveness was not proved and would not provide a significant safety advantage.

    Transportation officials said the new type of brakes was already in use by some railroads for other types of commodities. Their use would decrease the chances of a catastrophic pileup, reduce the number of punctured cars in an accident, or allow train operators to stop faster if there was an obstacle on the tracks.

    Sarah Feinberg, the acting administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, said: “The mission of the F.R.A. is safety and not focusing on what is convenient or inexpensive or provides the most cost savings for the rail industry. When I focus on safety, I land on E.C.P. It’s a very black-and-white issue for me.”

    There have been five explosions and spills this year alone, four in the United States and one in Canada. In July 2013, 47 people died in Canada after a runaway train derailed and exploded in the city of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

    “I am hopeful the rail industry will accept this rule, and will follow this rule,” Anthony Foxx, the transportation secretary, said at a news conference in Washington. He appeared with Canada’s transport minister, Lisa Raitt, who said Canadian and American regulations would be aligned.

    A central question before the administration was to determine what level of protection the new generation of cars should have and how quickly to roll them out.

    The new rules create a new standard, “high-hazard flammable trains,” defined as “a continuous block of 20 or more tank cars loaded with flammable liquid or 35 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid dispersed through a train.”

    By 2018, the rule would phase out older tank cars, DOT-111s, long known to be ill suited for transporting flammable material. A newer generation of cars, known as CPC-1232, would have to be retired or refitted to meet the new standard, DOT-117, by 2020.

    All cars built under the DOT-117 standard after Oct. 1, 2015, will have a thicker nine-sixteenths-inch tank shell, a one-half-inch shield running the full height of the front and back of a tank car, thermal protection and improved pressure-relief valves and bottom outlet valves.

    Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said Friday’s announcement gave railroads too much time to remove older cars from service. Mr. Schumer was one of seven senators who unveiled a bill that would seek to impose a fee of $175 per shipment on older cars to speed up their removal from service.

    “The good news is that the standards are predictable, but the bad news is that the phaseout time is too lenient,” Mr. Schumer said.

    Senator Marie Cantwell, Democrat of Washington, was more forceful, saying that the new regulations also failed to reduce the volatility of Bakken crude, which is more likely to catch fire and explode than other forms of crude.

    “It does nothing to address explosive volatility, very little to reduce the threat of rail car punctures, and is too slow on the removal of the most dangerous cars,” she said. “It’s more of a status quo rule.”

    Oil companies, though, said the mandate to build new tank cars to replace older models starting in 2018 would stretch the industry’s manufacturing ability and lead to shortages.

    Placing blame on the railroads, Jack Gerard, the chief executive of the American Petroleum Institute, said regulators should focus instead on preventing derailments and enhancing track inspection and maintenance.

    The spectacular growth of oil production from the Bakken region, negligible only a few years ago and now exceeding a million barrels a day, has transformed the domestic energy industry. It has placed the United States back on a path to oil self-sufficiency, and profoundly disrupted international energy markets.

    Share...

      1.4M at risk in Ohio for crude-oil derailment

      Repost from Vindi.com, Youngstown OH
      [Editor:  Quoting Ed Greenberg, spokesperson for the Association of American Railroads: “We believe that every tank car moving crude oil today should be phased out or built to a higher standard.”   – RS]

      1.4M at risk in Ohio for crude-oil derailment, study finds

      March 30, 2015 @ 12:05 a.m.

      Almost 1.4 million Ohioans live within a half-mile of railroad lines where some of the most-volatile crude oil in North America rolls by each week, a Columbus Dispatch analysis has found.

      Those people, about 12 percent of the state’s population, are at risk of being forced from their homes should a train hauling crude oil from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota run off the tracks.

      Most trains that transport crude oil stay on their tracks, but derailments can be catastrophic.

      A Bakken train that derailed in 2013 burst into flames, killing 47 people and destroying most of downtown Lac- Megantic, Quebec. Trains have wrecked in Ontario, as well as in Alabama, Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Virginia, sending trains up in flames, prompting mass evacuations and, in some cases, obliterating homes.

      A Bakken train derailed in West Virginia last month, forcing hundreds of people to evacuate their homes and spilling oil into the Kanawha River.

      Teresa Mills, program director of the Buckeye Forest Council, said that both rail officials and the oil and gas industry should do more to keep people safe.

      “Before they leave the fields, before they pump that oil into a train, they should be required to make that oil less explosive,” Mills said. “And if they can’t transport it without its being so explosive — if the Bakken is so volatile that it can’t be transported without being explosive — then they should leave it in the ground.”

      The Bakken shale field stretches over northwestern North Dakota and into Montana and produces some of the most-desirable crude oil in the United States. It’s often less expensive than imported crude. It also requires less refining than other shale oils to be turned into diesel fuel or gasoline.

      But the same things that make Bakken crude such a good fuel source also make it highly flammable.

      Ohio, with its more than 5,300 miles of tracks, is a key junction between the Bakken region and East Coast oil refineries.

      Millions of gallons of Bakken crude come through Ohio each week on trains, according to the reports that railroad companies submit to the state. Those reports show that from 45 million to 137 million gallons of Bakken are moving on Ohio’s railroad tracks every week.

      That volume, combined with high-profile derailments, has prompted federal regulators, lawmakers, industrial lobbying groups and environmental nonprofit organizations to pay closer attention to how oil moves on rail lines throughout the country.

      “If it could happen in these other places. It could surely happen right here in Ohio,” said Melanie Houston, director of water policy and environmental health for the Ohio Environmental Council, an environmental advocacy group. “It could happen in a rural area, but it could also happen in a highly populated metropolitan area like Columbus.”

      The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that trains carrying crude oil or ethanol will derail an average of 10 times a year for the next 20 years. Property damage could top $4 billion, the DOT analysis, completed last summer, found.

      The department is preparing new rules on how crude oil is transported on tracks throughout the country. Last year, railroad companies voluntarily agreed to limit oil-train speeds to 40 mph in cities.

      Ed Greenberg, a spokesman for the Association of American Railroads, a trade group that represents railroad companies, said that organization has lobbied for tougher restrictions on the tanker cars that carry crude oil.

      “We believe that every tank car moving crude oil today should be phased out or built to a higher standard,” Greenberg said.

      But keeping people along crude-oil shipping lines safe will take a comprehensive approach, said Tom Simpson, president of the Railway Supply Institute, which represents tank-car owners and manufacturers.

      “The tank car is not the silver bullet. You cannot really design a tank car to withstand the derailment forces in a derailment, and so you can’t get the risk down to zero,” Simpson said. “You’ve got to look at the other factors, and that includes derailment prevention and ensuring [that] the materials have the proper packaging, and also educating the emergency-response personnel in the cities and villages along the right of way.”

      Share...