Category Archives: CPC-1232 standard

Railway Age editor blasts industry, regulators for failure to understand root cause of derailments: volatile gases

Repost from Railway Age
[Editor: I will take issue with the author, who discounts tank car design, track maintenance and other factors for continuing catastrophic oil train derailments.  But I applaud his highlighting of the importance of reducing volatile gases in crude oil at the source.  See an important related discussion on the difference between conditioning and stabilizing the oil.  – RS]

The positive legacy of Lac-Mégantic: Zero

By David Thomas, Contributing Editor, Friday, July 08, 2016

Three years ago, in the early hours of July 13, a runaway oil train exploded in the then-idyllic lakeside town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people.

The investigation and ensuing cascade of regulatory measures severely disrupted the nascent crude-by-rail industry, caused federal authorities in Canada and the U.S. to condemn most of the continental tank car fleet, and turned the chattering classes against the railroads, amid a ruthless tarring by the petroleum lobby, for not “keeping the damn trains on the track.”

Lac megantic burningAfter all that, crude oil trains continue to derail and blow up; and the official blaming continues to target the railroads. The Federal Railroad Administration’s preliminary report on the July 3 explosion of four cars in Mosier, Ore., blames Union Pacific, citing sheared lag bolts and loose tieplates as the cause of the derailment.

As a trivial, background factoid, the FRA noted that the Mosier crude originated at Dakota Plains’ New Town terminal in North Dakota. The FRA did not mention that the doomed Lac-Mégantic train was loaded at that very same terminal, with crude oil fracked from the same Bakken oil formation.

Despite all of the regulatory agonizing, oil train explosions remain a clear and present danger, and not because of tieplates or tank cars.

The FRA reported that the four breached and burned cars were modern CPC-1232s, upgraded with full-height head shields and insulated metal jackets. Such upgraded cars are approved for use by the FRA, which remarked in its report: “The tank cars involved in the derailment performed as expected in the incident based on tank car performance metrics.”

In other words, the new tank cars are expected to breach in a 25 mph derailment. In more other words, the entire mandated fleet renewal was a monster red herring that distracted attention from fixing the root cause of exploding oil trains: contaminated crude oil containing dangerous and entirely unnecessary concentrations of explosive gases.

The solution, by now, is achingly obvious. Volatile crude should be heat-treated to remove explosive and corrosive gases (as is done routinely in Texas). Alberta bitumen should neither be diluted with naptha to ease its flow into and out of tank cars, nor juiced with hydrogen to boost its otherwise dismal energy value.

None of those measures has been implemented by Canada or the U.S. Instead, the obvious factor of crude oil volatility in oil train explosions has been shunted off to the U.S. Department of Energy for years of study that will eventually prove the validity of high school chemistry. The unnecessary presence of propane, butane, naptha and hydrogen converts barely flammable crude oil into a volatile explosive.

Losers:

• The honor of rail and hazmat regulators and elected politicians in Canada and the U.S., for their utter failure to address the known root cause of oil train explosions.

• The railroads, for allowing themselves to be painted as perpetrators of oil train explosions, instead of victims, forced by law, to haul demonstrably unsafe cargo in inadequate conveyances.

• Three lowly railroad operating employees facing criminal charges for the consequences of following company rules against setting automatic train brakes on a train, left unattended, with the engine running on a downhill grade.

• The sanctity of human life, for losing out to profit margin in the cost-benefit analysis of shipping incidentally (or in the case of bitumen, intentionally) contaminated crude.

Winners:

• The American Petroleum Institute, for convincing its well-paid legion of political hacks to blame tank cars and track bolts, instead of weaponized crude oil.

• Current and former Transport Canada executives, who escaped public identification and accountability for the still-unexplained exemption of a decrepit railroad from crewing requirements that apply to other railroads.

• Canada’s Transportation Safety Board, for continuing to survive as an investigative body, while defending its continuing failure to recommend that automatic train brakes be set when parking an unattended hazmat consist on a downhill grade—even when its Lac-Mégantic investigation concluded that setting such brakes would, very probably, have prevented the catastrophe.

Lac-Mégantic’s 47 victims died in the cause of maximized oil industry profit. Their deaths are unavenged. Those responsible go unpunished. The probability of future, entirely avoidable oil train calamities approaches the inevitable.

And that, three years later, is the legacy of Lac-Mégantic.

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BENICIA HERALD: City Council hears public comments on crude by rail

Repost from the Benicia Herald Online
[Editor: For Tuesday’s comments on Valero Crude By Rail by Marilyn Bardet and Planning Commissioner and City Council candidate Steve Young, skip down to the red bullet.  – RS]

Council hears about crude by rail, water infrastructure and EMS costs Tuesday

By Elizabeth Warnimont, July 7, 2016

BeniciaHerald_logoAt its regular meeting Tuesday, Benicia City Council had a busy meeting with lots of activity. First, the Council recognized the Parks and Community Services Department with a proclamation declaring July, 2016 as “Parks Make Life Better Month,” in conjunction with the statewide designation. Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Commission member Rich Payne accepted the proclamation from Mayor Elizabeth Patterson and the City Council.

The Council also confirmed Johanna Ely as Benicia’s sixth poet laureate. Ely spoke briefly about the activities and aims of the laureate program and read a selection of poetry including one titled, “Ode to the Library.”

The final item preceding the council’s consent calendar was a presentation by Assistant Public Works Director Christian Di Renzo on advanced metering infrastructure. Di Renzo provided an overview of the systems currently being considered by the city, outlined the benefits of acquiring a new, electronic metering system, and answered questions posed by the council and a member of the public.

Public comment

Marilyn Bardet
Marilyn Bardet

During the public comment period, Marilyn Bardet showed the council photos of both the aftermath of the recent Mosier, Ore. train derailment and explosion as well as some of the Union Pacific track and refuse currently visible in Benicia that she felt were of concern. One photo showed piles of black powder that Bardet referred to as coke dust that has spilled from hopper cars on railroad tracks near Bayshore Road in Benicia, and one showed warped track rail near the trestle towers, among other photos of concern. Bardet pointed out that the discarded railroad ties in one photo presented a fire hazard due to their creosote content.

Bardet suggested that these items be considered for remediation.

Benicia Planning Commissioner Steve Young, candidate for Benicia City Council
Benicia Planning Commissioner Steve Young, candidate for Benicia City Council

Benicia Planning Commissioner Steve Young also addressed the Council, as a resident, about the June 23 preliminary findings concerning the recent Oregon crude oil train derailment.

The Federal Railroad Administration report is titled, “Preliminary Factual Findings Report, Derailment of Union Pacific’s Unit Crude Oil Train Transporting Bakken Crude Oil for U.S. Oil, Mosier, Oregon.” Young read from the report’s executive summary. A complete copy of the report is available at the city of Benicia website at ci.benicia.ca.us.

The involved, Dot-111 tank cars, modified to 1232 standards, were equipped with full height head shields and metal jackets with insulation. These cars are commonly referred to as jacketed 1232s. During the derailment, a coupler struck one car, mechanically puncturing it. This puncture allowed crude oil to come in contact with an ignition source, leading to a fire that burned for approximately 14 hours.

The four cars involved in the fire were the punctured car and three additional tank cars, two that had their bottom outlet valves sheared off by the derailment and one car with the gasket melted out from under the manway cover.

The Valero proposal, Young pointed out, calls for the use of non-jacketed 1232 cars. These have no full-height head shields and no jackets with insulation. Another concern is the bottom release valves, a common source of ignition in derailment incidents. These valves shear off, causing a leak and then the subsequent fire. The more advanced tank cars have the valve located on top.

Young reminded the Council that Valero is proposing to buy or lease these tank cars. If safety is truly Valero’s first priority, he suggested, then the added expense of choosing safer cars would certainly seem to be worth any added expense. He asked that the Council consider these issues when it addresses the proposal again in September. He added that an even safer car, the Dot-117, will be required by federal law by the year 2020, and suggested that again, in the interest of safety, Valero might consider opting for that model.

SONET
The Council approved a resolution to accept a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Solano County Sheriff’s Office regarding the Benicia Police Department hiring of a full time Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Enforcement Team (SONET) officer, who would report to the SONET sergeant. The officer’s salary would be provided by the sheriff’s office. A resolution approving the MOU was approved by unanimous vote.

First responder fee overview
Benicia Fire Chief Jim Lydon presented the Council with a report on the option for the fire department to begin assessing fees for services provided by its Emergency Medical Services (EMS) team. The department would collect insurance coverage information from patients at the point of service and hand them a notice stating that they would be contacting their insurance companies on their behalf.

Chief Lydon emphasized that the department would utilize compassionate billing, which means that the insurance portion of any incurred costs would be considered payment in full, and that fees would only be assessed for services and not for transportation, which is currently provided by an outside ambulance company. He also noted that no patients would be billed directly from the fire department, regardless of their insurance coverage status.

Councilmember Tom Campbell expressed concern over the legality of the compassionate billing procedure and Chief Lydon agreed to investigate that topic further, though he noted that Bay Area cities already following that procedure have not yet encountered problems, to his knowledge.

The presentation was intended to be strictly informational. The fire department desired direction from council as to whether or not to pursue the idea, and council indicated that they should proceed.

PG&E exit fees
Councilmember Alan Schwartzman provided the Council with some information pertaining to a proposal to submit a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) regarding the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment (PCIA) fee, essentially an exit fee, charged by Pacific Gas & Electric to customers who have switched to Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) providers such as Marin Clean Energy (MCE).

Schwartzman, an MCE board member as it happens, began by reading from the staff report accompanying the City Council agenda, a complete copy of which is available by visiting the city of Benicia web site under Agendas and Minutes, or by calling the city at 746-4200. Schwartzman’s reading is paraphrased here:

MCE has requested that the city of Benicia submit a letter to the CPUC regarding the PCIA charge increase. The CPUC has consistently denied adequate public input to discuss the fee. Earlier this year, PG&E increased this fee by 95 percent. The proposed letter asks the CPUC to provide a venue for public input. The charge is assessed by PG&E on a per-kilowatt basis to cover power generation costs acquired prior to a customer’s change in service provider.

Schwartzman explained that PG&E procures energy based on anticipated need, so that when customers switch away from PG&E, the company is left with the cost burden of the energy it has already acquired, without corresponding reimbursement from customers.

The CPUC approved the increases at a public meeting, but without allowing CCAs access to the data they would need in order to effectively predict the amount of the fee, information which they would like to be able to pass along to their customers. All CCAs are currently working with the CPUC and Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs), in order to inform customers how the PCIA fees are calculated and to remain cost competitive.

MCE is asking the city of Benicia to request that the CPUC allow a workshop for public input in order to fairly deal with the PCIA fee.

A motion to approve the submittal of the letter was approved by unanimous vote.

More information
A complete copy of the meeting agenda is available at the city of Benicia website at ci.benicia.ca.us or by calling the city at 746-4200. Minutes of the meeting are typically available about two weeks after the date of the meeting. The next City Council meeting will take place Tuesday, July 19 at Council Chambers, City Hall, 250 East L St., beginning at 7 p.m.

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NORTHEAST PUBLIC RADIO: Advocates Call On Feds To Ban Rail Transport Of Bakken Oil

Repost from WAMC Northeast Public Radio
[Editor:  Significant quote: “More than 80 environmental, business, recreational and other organizations along with former members of state agencies, current and former state legislators and both the Plattsburgh and Burlington City Councils have signed a letter to the Vermont and New York Congressional delegation calling for a ‘federal legislatively imposed ban on the transport of oil along Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.'”  – RS]

Advocates Call On Federal Officials To Ban Rail Transport Of Bakken Oil

By Pat Bradley, Apr 14, 2016
PAT BRADLEY/WAMC

A coalition of environmental and municipal officials stood in a park overlooking the Saranac River and a rail trestle this morning. They announced a new effort to convince federal representatives from New York and Vermont to ban crude oil transport in order to protect Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.

The group met at MacDonough Park across from City Hall. The park is only a few hundred yards from a rail trestle that daily sees trains carrying crude oil cross over the Saranac River as it empties into Lake Champlain. The advocates say transporting Bakken oil by rail remains an unacceptable risk to Vermont and New York, and is especially hazardous to the sensitive ecosystems of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks.

More than 80 environmental, business, recreational and other organizations along with former members of state agencies, current and former state legislators and both the Plattsburgh and Burlington City Councils have signed a letter to the Vermont and New York Congressional delegation calling for a “federal legislatively imposed ban on the transport of oil along Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.”

National Wildlife Federation Senior Counsel Jim Murphy outlined a precipitous increase in rail accidents nationally over the past three years and says the oil trains that travel along Lake Champlain are too dangerous. “We have concluded that there is no safe way to transport this oil at this time. The trains that roll along this lake are sometimes twice the length of the train that destroyed Lac Megantic. The danger is just simply too high.”

Plattsburgh Ward One City Councilor Rachelle Armstrong called the oil trains travelling through the city an ominous problem. “Our municipalities need to stand up and become the advocates in a bold and aggressive way so that we bring the attention to bear on this issue that our leaders at the federal level need to recognize.”

The rail corridor along Lake Champlain also passes through the Adirondack Park. Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan says the trains pose a significant risk to the largest park in the contiguous United States. “This is also considered to be a biosphere reserve by the United Nations. The danger here is also to a drinking water supply for one hundred eighty thousand people. Lake Champlain serves as water for people from Vermont, New York and Quebec. So we have grave concerns about the environment, about communities and about wild lands here and we’re hoping that the federal government takes them seriously.”

The trains carrying Bakken crude travel 100 miles along Lake Champlain and through the Adirondacks to the Port of Albany. Lake Champlain Committee Executive Director Lori Fisher believes a catastrophic accident is not a matter of if, but when. “In the past we have pushed for a ban on the DOT-111’s. That hasn’t happened. There’s been some movement to upgrade trains to the twelve thirty two’s. They don’t represent a greater safety for our communities. That’s why we see the need to push for a ban on oil transport until it can be safe. We know it’s not safe now and it’s a ticking time bomb and we need to act now.”

The advocates noted that the evacuation zone from an oil train derailment in Plattsburgh includes City Hall, the downtown business area, the Country Government Center and numerous schools.

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