Tag Archives: Reid vapor pressure levels

Tesoro & Phillips 66 building crude railcars stronger than new US rules require

Repost from Reuters
[Editor:  These tank cars exceed the new standard, but still fail on several counts.  For instance, note the closing sentences here: “Hack said Tesoro is talking with Union Tank Car on possibly outfitting crude railcars to add enhanced brakes before the 2021 deadline.  ‘We have some time to make that decision,’ he said.”  You can be sure that every refinery seeking permits for crude by rail will crow that they, too, have ordered newer, safer tank cars.  Get ready, Benicia!   – RS]

EXCLUSIVE-Tesoro building crude railcars stronger than new US rules require

By Kristin Hayes, May 18, 2015 4:59pm BST

(Reuters) – U.S. refiner Tesoro Corp has ordered new crude oil railcars with features that surpass safety standards that federal regulators set this month, executives told Reuters.

The 210 tank cars being built in northern Louisiana are so-called pressure cars, with the same design as those that carry liquid petroleum gases such as propane and butane, gas cargoes that are more flammable than crude oil.

They will be delivered in the coming months after being ordered in early 2014.

The new federal rules for all crude and ethanol railcars built after Oct. 1 of this year do not require strength to the level of a pressure car but are stronger than the standards adopted by the industry in 2011.

Tesoro, like other oil-by-rail players, knew the federal standards were coming and the basics of what they would likely be. But the company went further with a stronger car, “which is the primary thing we control,” C.J. Warner, Tesoro’s head of strategy and business development, told Reuters.

The order was a sign the refiner wanted to get ahead of the coming regulations and avoid potential capacity bottlenecks at companies that build tank cars as shippers must now renovate their fleets.

Booming North American onshore production spurred sharp growth in moving oil by rail, particularly for U.S. West and East coast refiners which otherwise must depend on more costly imports. No major crude pipelines move oil from the Midcontinent west across the Rocky Mountains or east through the Appalachians and densely populated northeastern states.

Fiery derailments, caused in some cases by track failures, have become more frequent as oil-by-rail and crude-only trains carrying 100 cars or more went from nearly nothing five years ago to more than 1 million barrels per day late last year.

Opposition to moving oil by rail spiked on safety concerns, prompting the U.S. Department of Transportation and Canada to impose new railcar safety standards.

Tesoro isn’t the only refiner that didn’t wait for word from the U.S. DOT to order stronger cars.

Phillips 66 confirmed to Reuters that it also last year ordered 350 non-pressurized new cars that mostly match the new DOT standard. Those cars will be delivered by year-end, the company said.

THICKER HULLS

Both sets of new cars have 9/16-inch-thick hulls, steel shields on the front and back and protections for valves and fittings where crude goes in on top and drains out the bottom, as the new rules require, company executives said. Tesoro’s design modifies those fittings to handle crude rather than just LPGs.

Tesoro’s cars also have test pressure specifications of 200 pounds per square inch of internal pressure, twice that for non-pressurized cars. A test pressure is typically 20 to 40 percent of how much pressure it would take for the railcar to burst.

That level of test pressure is standard for cars that transport LPGs or highly poisonous substances such as hydrogen cyanide, according to the Association of American Railroads.

“When we saw the design, we were very comfortable that it would meet the new standards that we anticipated,” John Hack, Tesoro’s head of rail operations, told Reuters.

For Tesoro, which hopes to build the largest oil-by-rail facility in the United States in Washington state, it’s an investment in safety and continued access to cheaper North American crudes.

“It’s very important to us to continue to transport North American crude and get it from the Midcontinent out to the West Coast where it competes very nicely with the foreign crudes,” Warner said.

RETROFITS?

By last year most refiners, including Tesoro and Phillips 66, no longer accepted shipments in older, weaker railcars such as those used on a runaway crude train that careened into the small Quebec town of Lac Megantic in mid-2013, killing 47 people.

Early last year Tesoro needed to replace the last of its older cars and worked with its builder, Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s Union Tank Car, to develop the new design, Warner said.

Tesoro and Phillips 66 aim to use their newest cars in crude trains before deciding whether to order more. Both companies’ fleets meet the 2011 industry standard for cars with 7/16-inch-thick hulls and reinforced valves.

Those 7/16-inch cars don’t have to be thrown out, but to move in crude-only trains, they will need added protections, including ‘jackets’, or an extra layer of steel around the tank, according to the DOT rules.

Neither Tesoro’s nor Phillips 66’s new cars are equipped with specialized brakes that the DOT said crude-only trains must have starting in 2021 or be held to 30 miles per hour. An oil industry trade group is challenging that provision in court.

Hack said Tesoro is talking with Union Tank Car on possibly outfitting crude railcars to add enhanced brakes before the 2021 deadline.

“We have some time to make that decision,” he said.

(Reporting by Kristen Hays; Editing by Terry Wade and James Dalgleish)
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    Latest ‘bomb train’ incident predictable

    Repost from The Hawkeye, Burlington, Iowa

    Latest ‘bomb train’ incident predictable

    By Kathleen Sloan, May 11, 2015

    BNSF Railway carried the Hess Corp.-owned rail car, which carried highly volatile Bakken crude oil from North Dakota and appears to have followed the law.

    President Barack Obama weighed and rejected using executive authority to curb the transport of this explosive crude oil, rich in butane and propane, because he decided North Dakota state law should be the controlling authority. But the law North Dakota passed in December and went into effect just last month, only requires less than 13.7 pounds-per-square-inch vapor pressure inside the tanker, despite explosions at lower pressures.

    That’s almost 40 percent more than the average vapor pressure among the 63 tanker cars that exploded July 6, 2013, at Lac-Megantic, Quebec. That disaster killed 47 people, some of whom could not be found because they were vaporized, and is driving recent federal and state rail car regulations.

    According to an Albany, N.Y., Times Union investigation, the average vapor pressure among 72 tanker cars in the Lac-Megantic train was 10 psi.

    Hess Corp. tested the crude just before loading at 10.8 psi, according to Associated Press reporters Matthew Brown and Blake Nicholson, in their follow-up story about the derailment at Heimdal, N.D.

    While federal regulations only require flash point and boiling point to be measured, North Dakota now requires vapor pressure be measured. But measuring and labeling the danger does not make transporting it safe.

    The U.S. Department of Transportation’s two divisions, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, are the regulating authorities overseeing railway transport of crude oil. Generally, the FRA is responsible for train car and rail safety, while the PHMSA inspects the proper testing of the oil. That determines the oil’s proper classification and its proper “packaging” in pressurized cars and their labeling.

    Other PHMSA duties include checking shipping documents to see if the shipper has self-certified the procedures properly as well as employee safety and handling training.

    The U.S. DOT initiated “Operation Safe Delivery” in August 2013, in reaction to the Lac-Megantic incident, although the Bakken oil boom dates to 2008.

    A federal rule-making process also began in August 2013. Those rules went into effect last week.

    PHMSA, as part of Operation Safe Delivery, took several samples of Bakken crude oil from rail-loading facilities, storage tanks and pipelines used to load rail cars. Several also were collected from cargo tanks.

    The first set of samples were taken August through November 2013 and the second set February through May 2014.

    The first set showed psi vapor pressure among a dozen samples ranging from 7.7 psi to 11.75 psi.

    A second set of 88 samples showed vapor pressure ranging from 10.1 psi to 15.1, with the average at about 12 psi.

    Only six of the 88 samples were at or exceeded North Dakota’s 13.7 psi. This means shippers are not required to treat most of the crude generated from the Bakken oil formation before loading it onto cars.

    The “Operation Safe Delivery Update,” available on the PHMSA website, also gives test results for propane, sulphur, hydrogen sulfide, methane and butane content.

    The conclusions in the Operations Safe Delivery Update, which was not dated, are:

    “Bakken crude’s high volatility level — a relative measure of a specific material’s tendency to vaporize — is indicated by tests concluding that it is a ‘light’ crude oil with a high gas content, a low flash point, a low boiling point and high vapor pressure …

    “Given Bakken crude oil’s volatility, there is an increased risk of a significant incident involving this material due to the significant volume that is transported, the routes and the extremely long distances it is moving by rail… These trains often travel over a thousand miles from the Bakken region to refinery locations along the coasts…”

    And although the report states, “PHMSA and FRA plan to continue … to work with the regulated community to ensure the safe transportation of crude oil across the nation,” the new rules that went into effect last week did nothing about regulating vapor pressure.

    Instead, the rules phase out weaker and older pressurized tanker cars, the DOT-111, by 2020, and phase in CPC-1232 cars.

    So far, at least four derailments of CPC-1232 cars carrying Bakken oil have exploded:

      • March 5 in Galena, Ill.;
      • Feb. 1 in Mount Carbon, W.Va.;
      • Feb. 15 near Timmons, Ontario; and
      • Last year in Lynchburg, Va.

    Experts in various news articles and public comment submitted during the federal rule-making stated the way to make transport safe is to refine the crude before shipping. That would involve building refineries near the extraction point, which experts pointed out would be expensive.

    In a Sept. 26, 2014, story, Railway Age contributing editor David Thomas applauded North Dakota for “using state jurisdiction over natural resources to fill the vacuum created by the federal government’s abdication of its constitutional responsibility for rail safety and hazardous materials.”

    But Thomas admitted the state law on crude treatment would reduce the danger only slightly.

    “Simply put, North Dakotan crude will have to be lightly pressure-cooked to boil off a fraction of the volatile ‘light ends’ before shipment,” Thomas said. “This conditioning lowers the ignition temperature of crude oil — but not by much. It leaves in solution most of the culprit gases, including butane and propane. Even the industry itself says conditioning would not make Bakken crude meaningfully safer for transportation, though it would make the state’s crude more consistent from one well to another.”

    “The only solution for safety is stabilization, which evaporates and re-liquifies nearly all of the petroleum gases for separate delivery to refiners,” Thomas said.

    He points out owners and shippers in the Eagle Fork formation in Texas, voluntarily stabilize their crude before shipping. It’s more volatile than Bakken crude.

    “So far, stabilized Eagle Fork crude has been transported by tank car as far away as Quebec City, without the fireballs that have plagued the shipment of unstabilized Bakken crude,” Thomas said. “The Texan gases are liquefied and piped underground to the state’s Gulf Coast petrochemical complex for processing and sale.”

    Keeping the volatile gases in solution during shipping, while dangerous, is profitable.

    Thomas said North Dakota has no nearby petrochemical plants, which “explains the oil industry’s collective decision not to extract the otherwise commercially valuable gases from North Dakota crude oil. Instead, most of the explosive gases remain dissolved in the unstabilized Bakken oil for extraction after delivery to distant refineries.”

    The PHMSA, however, requires butane and propane be removed from the crude before it is injected into pipelines, Thomas said.

    Comments to the federal rule-making pointed out Bakken oil is made more dangerous still by corrosive chemicals used in the fracking process. The crude is further treated with chemicals to make the molasses-like consistency easier to pump.

    Severe corrosion to the inner surface of the tanker cars, manway covers, valves and fittings have been recorded in various incidents, commentators said.

    The lack of federal regulations is not the only problem. Enforcement is minimal because there are only 56 inspectors, according to PHMSA spokesman Gordon Delcambre.

    Ten of those have been assigned to the North Dakota Bakken oil formation region, he said.

    In the PHMSA 2013 annual enforcement report, 151 cases were prosecuted and 312 civil penalty tickets were issued, resulting in $1.87 million in fines. The largest fine was $120,200.

    The report did not mention what the hazardous material was in 173 of the 463 enforcement actions.

    Only one enforcement action appeared to result from an inspection of “fuel oil” transport, which resulted in a $975 fine for incorrect “packaging” and failure to prove, through documents, employees had been given the required safety and hazardous material handling training.

    According to BNSF Railway’s report to the state Homeland Security and Emergency Management, required by a U.S. DOT emergency order since May 2014, a range of zero-to-six trains carrying at least 1 million gallons (30,000 gallons per car or about 35 cars or more) pass through Burlington each week.

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      IMMEDIATE BAN ON DOT-111 tank cars: Crude-By-Rail Safety Act

      From Rep. Mike Thompson’s website
      [Editor:  Read the bill on Rep. McDermott’s website.  Track the bill on GovTrac.us.   Authenticated version of the bill is here.    HIGHLY SIGNIFICANT:  Sec. 4. Requires the Secretary of Transportation to immediately prohibit the shipment of oil in all DOT-111 tank cars, and unjacketed CPC-1232 cars.  Allows jacketed CPC-1232 cars to remain in service.  Requires the Secretary of Transportation to prohibit, after 2 years, the shipment of ethanol in all DOT-111 tank cars, and unjacketed CPC-1232 cars.  Allows jacketed CPC-1232 cars to remain in service.  – RS]

      THOMPSON INTRODUCES CRUDE-BY-RAIL SAFETY ACT

      Apr 15, 2015, Press Release

      WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-5) today co-authored and introduced the Crude-by-Rail Safety Act which establishes comprehensive new safety and security standards for the transport of crude oil by rail. The legislation is designed to help protect communities along the nation’s railway networks. The legislation comes amid growing concerns that current standards do not address the threat posed by transporting crude oil by rail. Representatives Jim McDermott (WA-7), Doris Matsui (CA-6) and Ron Kind (WI-3), and Nita Lowey (NY-17) introduced the legislation with Thompson.

      “Public safety is priority number one when it comes to transporting highly volatile crude oil,” said Thompson. “Railcars transporting crude run through the heart of our communities, and as recent accidents have demonstrated, robust, comprehensive action is needed. The bill introduced today  puts safety measures in place that will help make sure communities are secure, railcars are as strong as possible, and first responders are prepared in the event of an emergency.”

      In recent months, the large growth in crude-by-rail transport has led to increased rail traffic and a rise in rail accidents. Four derailments in the US and Canada in under a month earlier this year underscored the urgency of action to curb the risks of transporting volatile crude oil. The legislation introduced today will increase safety standards and accountability.

      The Crude-by-Rail Safety Act would establish new, commonsense federal safety standards for railcars transporting oil across the country.  This legislation:

      • Establishes a maximum volatility standard for crude oil (propane, butane, methane, and ethane) transported by rail
      • Prohibits use of unsafe DOT-111 tank cars, including the removal of 37,700 unsafe cars off the rail network
      • Establishes the strongest tank car standards to-date
      • Requires comprehensive oil spill response planning and studies
      • Increases fines for violating volatility standards and hazmat transport standards
      • Requires disclosure of train movements through communities and emergency response plans
      • Requires railroads to implement a confidential close-call reporting systems

      Congressman Mike Thompson is proud to represent California’s 5th Congressional District, which includes all or part of Contra Costa, Lake, Napa, Solano and Sonoma Counties.  He is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Thompson is also a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition and chairs the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Wine Caucus.

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