Category Archives: Empty tank cars

Empty tank cars aren’t so empty

Repost of an email from Matt Krogh, Extreme Oil Campaign, STAND
[See also High Hazardous Flammable train placards to watch for.  – RS]

Empty tank cars and tank car cleaning resources

…here are a couple of government, industry, and expert sources. re the likely volume of crude oil in a given “empty” residue tank car with a hazmat placard:


Heel: the crude oil residue in the bottom and on sides of the tank car

Clabber: consolidated scunge from many uses w/out cleaning

This document for Customs and Border Patrol provides a sample estimate of oil tank cars having 7% heel, or 2,100 gallons for a 30,000 gallon car (p.7):

This document by the American Petroleum Institute explains the different ways they measure heel, and also supports the likelihood of 7% heel. It also contains this statement, which raises concerns about fluctuating vapor pressure and off-gassing: “Classifying and Loading of Crude Oil into Rail Tank Cars”

Crude oil expands and contracts based on changes in temperature. For example, the volume can change by 0.4 % to 0.6 % per 10 °F change depending upon the density. Volume corrections shall be carried out in accordance with API MPMS Ch. 11.1-2004 or API MPMS Ch. 11.5, as appropriate.

This formal filing by Phyllis Fox explains how tank cars vent toxic gas, including residue cars, and why temperature changes can cause tank cars to vent:


    DERAILMENT: Train Derails at Port of Tacoma

    Repost from KIRO TV, Seattle WA

    Oil tank cars derail near Port of Tacoma; no spills or injuries

    Righting derailed train could take until midnight

    Updated: Apr 22, 2016 – 2:52 PM

    TACOMA, Wash — An empty tanker train has derailed at the Port of Tacoma, with 18 cars off the tracks.

    The train belongs to Tacoma Rail and all of the tank cars are empty.

    Tacoma firefighters at the scene said there were no spills and no one was hurt.

    Lincoln is closed at 11th Avenue. It may take until midnight to get the car upright again.

    Some businesses have been affected by the scene.


      Held up in court for a year, Maryland oil train reports outdated

      Repost from McClatchyDC

      Held up in court for a year, Maryland oil train reports outdated

      By Curtis Tate, September 12, 2015

      •  McClatchy received reports it asked for in 2014
      •  Documents contained data previously revealed
      •  Economics of crude by rail have shifted since

      After more than a year, McClatchy finally got the oil train reports it had requested from Maryland.

      And they were badly out of date.

      Last year, McClatchy filed open-records requests in about 30 states for the documents, and was the first news organization to do so in Maryland, in June 2014.

      Maryland was poised to release the records in July 2014, when two railroads, CSX and Norfolk Southern, sued the state Department of the Environment to block the disclosure.

      Finally last month, a state judge ruled in the favor of the release, marking the first time a court had affirmed what many other states had already done without getting sued.

      The documents McClatchy and other news organizations ultimately received were dated June 2014, not long after the U.S. Department of Transportation began requiring the railroads to notify state officials of shipments of 1 million gallons or more of Bakken crude oil.

      After more than a year, however, the economics of shipping crude by rail had changed substantially.

      Amid a slump in oil prices, refineries once receiving multiple trainloads of North American crude oil every day have switched, at least temporarily, to waterborne foreign imports.

      The trend is reflected from the East Coast to the West Coast, where long strings of surplus tank cars have been parked on lightly used rail lines, generating rental income for small railroads but also the ire of nearby residents.

      The documents released in Maryland show that in June 2014, Norfolk Southern was moving as many as 16 oil trains a week through Cecil County on its way to a refinery in Delaware.

      But McClatchy has known that since August 2014, when it received a response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Amtrak.

      The Delaware News Journal reported that the PBF Refinery in Delaware City, Del., now receives only about 40,000 barrels a day of crude by rail. That’s about 56 loaded tank cars, or half a unit train, nowhere close to the volume of mid-2014.

      The June 2014 Maryland documents also show that CSX was moving as many as five oil trains a week on a route from western Maryland through downtown Baltimore toward refineries in Philadelphia.

      But that had been clear since at least October 2014, when the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency released its oil train reports showing an identical number of CSX trains crossing from western Pennsylvania into Maryland, then back into southeast Pennsylvania.

      CSX told the Baltimore Sun that it had not regularly moved a loaded oil train through Baltimore since the third quarter of 2014. The company had earlier told the newspaper that it moved empty oil trains through the city and state.

      Federal regulators never required railroads to report empty oil train movements.

      The vast majority of loaded CSX oil trains move to Philadelphia via Cleveland, Buffalo, Albany, N.Y., and northern New Jersey, according to records from Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.