Category Archives: Fire

‘Significant industry interest’ in oil tank cars involved in latest fiery CP train crash, TSB says

These tank cars were touted as safer than those in the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster

CBC News, by Guy Quenneville, Feb 14, 2020 12:15 PM CT

‘There is significant industry interest in documenting the performance of the DOT 117J100-W tank cars’ involved in the crash, the TSB says. (TSB)

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada says it has not found any mechanical defects that could account for the derailment of a CP Rail oil train last week near the small Saskatchewan hamlet of Guerney — but it’s taking a close look at the tank cars involved in the incident.

The TSB issued a preliminary report on the Feb. 6 crash on Friday morning. None of the findings are final.

“A review of the locomotive event recorder download determined that the train was handled in accordance with regulatory and company requirements,” the TSB said in its preliminary update.

The finding about a lack of mechanical defects referred only to the train and did not refer to the track, a TSB spokesperson confirmed.

It also found that of the 32 tank cars that derailed, 19 were involved in the blaze that shut down the nearby highway and prompted the voluntary evacuation of about 85 people. It’s not clear how many, or if any, tanks lost their entire loads.

Transport Canada has touted the newly-built cars involved in last week’s crash, dubbed TC-117s, as being safer than the tanks used in the explosive Lac-Mégantic rail disaster of 2013.

Questions about ‘containment integrity and fire resistance’

Last week’s derailment was the second to happen near Guernsey in less than two months. A CP oil train crashed on the other side of Guernsey on Dec. 9, 2019, with 19 of the 33 derailed tank cars losing their entire loads of oil.

The tanks involved in that crash were retrofitted cars — TC-117Rs — which have a slightly less thick hull than the new TC-117s.

CP does not own the tank cars but rather leases them from a provider.

In its release about the most recent derailment, the TSB said there is “significant industry interest in documenting the performance of the [new TC-117] tank cars,” particularly in terms of “containment integrity and fire resistance.”

Investigators also found that of the 32 tank cars that derailed, 19 were involved in the blaze that shut down the nearby highway and prompted the voluntary evacuation of about 85 people. (TSB)

The fire from last week’s train crash burned for at least a day and a half.

The eastbound train, which was carrying diluted bitumen owned by ConocoPhillips, had left Rosyth, Alberta, and was headed for Stroud, Oklahoma. It derailed about 2.4 km west of Guernsey.

A Texas-based company called Trinity Rail previously confirmed to CBC News that it manufactured the tank cars involved in last Thursday’s crash and is “proactively monitoring the situation.”

While the TSB said the amount of oil released remains undetermined, the Saskatchewan government has said an estimated 1.2 million litres of oil spilled, citing CP as its source. That’s just short of the amount spilled in the December derailment.

Slower speed in 2nd crash

According to the TSB, the train that derailed in December was travelling at about 75 kilometres an hour, which is the speed limit on that section of CP’s line.

But last Thursday’s train was travelling more slowly, at around 67 kilometres an hour.

Three TSB investigators are probing the causes of the crash.

“Each tank car must be cleaned, purged, and staged prior to inspection,” the TSB said. “As of [Wednesday], about 17 of the derailed cars have been examined, with several cars exhibiting breaches.”

The train was carrying a total of 104 tank cars.

Sask. minister talks pipelines, rail safety

The two derailments have prompted many people to advocate for more pipelines.

In a news conference Friday about school bus safety and the blockades that have crippled Canada’s rail service, Saskatchewan’s minister of highways and infrastructure, Greg Ottenbreit, made a brief comment that touched on the topic of pipelines and railway safety.

“Saskatchewan is a landlocked province but Saskatchewan is also a gateway to the world,” he said. “And I think a lot of my fellow ministers can connect with those comments. We will continue to advocate for an uninhibited tidewater access, also pipeline access, which will lead to rail safety and capacity.”

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    Oil train news – derailment and fire, speed limits in Canada, expanded production in North Dakota

    Three crude oil stories in today’s North American press:
    Site of December 2019 CP oil train accident site, with the derailment looking south. Transportation Safety Board of Canada / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Canadian Town Evacuated After Another Oil Train Derails and Burns

    From EcoWatch, by Justin Mikulka, DeSmog, Feb. 07, 2020

    Early in the morning of Feb. 6, an oil train derailed and caught fire near Guernsey, Saskatchewan, resulting in the Canadian village’s evacuation. This is the second oil train to derail and burn near Guernsey, following one in December that resulted in a fire and oil spill of 400,000 gallons…. [more, including drone footage]


    Canada to impose speed limits on trains carrying dangerous goods after crash

    Reuters, by David Ljunggren, Rod Nickel, February 6, 2020

    Oil train 2OTTAWA/WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Canada said on Thursday it would impose temporary speed limits on trains hauling dangerous goods after a Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd crude oil train derailed and caught fire.

    The accident, which happened in the early hours of Thursday near Guernsey, Saskatchewan, was the second derailment in the area in a span of two months.

    Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said that effective at midnight Friday (0500 GMT), trains hauling more than 20 cars of dangerous goods would be limited to 25 mph across the country for the next 30 days.

    The limit in urban areas will be 20 mph, he told reporters….  [more]


    Whiting proposes expansion of oil conditioning facility

    Bismarck Tribune, by Amy R. Sisk, February 7, 2020

    Oil rigs (copy) (copy)Whiting Oil and Gas plans to expand an oil conditioning facility in Mountrail County to accommodate climbing production. The expanded facility would handle up to 65,000 barrels per day of oil, a 20,000-barrel increase over its current capacity, according to an application Whiting filed with the PSC. The oil, once conditioned, would then be taken by pipeline to market.

    …Oil production statewide has climbed to 1.52 million barrels per day, 140,000 barrels higher than a year ago.

    …Oil typically undergoes a conditioning process as soon as it’s extracted from underground, said Katie Haarsager, a spokeswoman for the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division. It’s often sent through a heater-treater, which separates the oil from natural gas and saltwater.

    The oil must be processed so that its vapor pressure level does not exceed 13.7 psi before it can be transported by pipeline, train or truck. North Dakota’s limit of 13.7 psi is based on a national standard for stable crude of 14.7 psi and builds in 1 psi as a margin of error. That limit has been the subject of controversy from environmentalists and rail safety advocates following fiery oil train derailments.  [more]

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      Massive fire at refinery in Crockett sends flames, black smoke into air

      Massive fire at refinery in Crockett sends flames, black smoke into air

      SFGATE, by Katie Dowd, Tuesday, October 15, 2019, 3:33 pm PDT
      [BenIndy Editor: Alert Solano sent out this message by text and email at 3:27pm today.:  “Benicia Fire Department is currently monitoring the fire at the Nustar Refinery in the Crockett area of Contra Costa County. We are monitoring the air quality in town. As of this time, there are no impacts to Benicia from this incident. We will provide updates as more information becomes available.”  – R.S.]
      A fire in Crockett sent flames and black smoke into the Bay Area on Oct. 15, 2019. Photo KTVU

      A massive fire has broken out at a NuStar Energy facility in Crockett, sending plumes of flame and thick black smoke into the air on Tuesday afternoon.

      The Vallejo Fire Department confirmed to KTVU the fire started in the NuStar Energy storage tanks on San Pablo Ave. Television reports indicate there may have been an explosion as well.

      Aerial footage shows at least two storage tanks appear to be fully engulfed. The hills behind the tanks, which are golden with dry grass, have also caught fire. An airplane is currently conducting air drops on the hills.

      A video posted to YouTube shows the top of one of the storage tanks being flung into the air as the fire rages.

      Nearby residents in Crockett, Hercules and Rodeo should shelter in place and keep their windows closed, as the black smoke could contain contaminants that are hazardous to those with lung problems.

      “Go inside, and close all windows and doors. Turn off all heaters, air conditioners, and fans,” cautioned the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office. “Unless you are using your fireplace, close your fireplace dampers and vents. Cover any cracks around doors or windows with tape or damp towels.”

      HEADS UP, COMMUTERS: The NuStar fire has closed I-80

      NuStar Energy L.P. is a San Antonio-based company that bills itself as “one of the largest independent liquids terminal and pipeline operators in the nation.” Contra Costa County District One Supervisor John Gioia said on KTVU that their tanks “store products for local refineries.”

      “There was an explosion there,” Gioia said. “A couple tanks are on fire.”

      A Phillips 66 refinery is located next door, but does not appear to have incurred any damage.

      The cause of the explosion and fire are still unknown. No injuries have yet been reported.

      This is a breaking news story and will be updated when more information becomes available.

      Katie Dowd is an SFGATE Senior Digital Manager.
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        Philadelphia refinery closes after massive explosion and fire

        [Editor: After extensive cleanup, the site could reopen as a renewable energy facility!  See story in the Inquirer, also in cleantechnica.com.  – RS]

        From bankruptcy to fire to closure, a rocky end for Philadelphia Energy Solutions

        By Patricia Madej, The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 26, 2019
        From bankruptcy to fire to closure, a rocky end for Philadelphia Energy Solutions
        A view of Philadelphia Energy Solutions on June 26, 2019 in Philadelphia, PA.  – DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

        Philadelphia Energy Solutions, the East Coast’s largest refinery, will close within the next month, an announcement that comes days after a series of explosions rocked the city and reverberated throughout the country.

        While residents and activists questioned the refinery’s role in the community following the incident, its owner was already edging closer to the financial brink, a little more than a year after a court approved a bankruptcy plan that aimed to bring some stability.

        Here’s a look back at the events that lead up the fire, which the refinery’s CEO said Wednesday “made it impossible” to “continue operations.”

        2012

        The formation: The South Philly complex, which is technically two different refineries, dates back more than a century. Sunoco acquires both refineries, and transferred the complex in 2012 to a joint venture between Sunoco and the Carlyle Group. The joint venture is named Philadelphia Energy Solutions.

        January 22, 2018

        Bankruptcy: Philadelphia Energy Solutions LLC files a bankruptcy plan in an effort to restructure $525 million of debt and bring in new owners, pointing the finger toward the rising cost of renewable energy credits for its financial distress.

        March 26, 2018

        Emerging from bankruptcy: A judge approves PES’ bankruptcy plan, putting it on the path toward financial recovery.

        Sept. 20, 2018

        Previous warning: A report from the University of Pennsylvania predicts that the PES complex might soon shutter and suggests that the city prepare for what to do with the 1,300-acre industrial property.

        June 21, 2019

        The explosions: series of explosions cause a major blaze at PES that jolted many worried residents out of bed. The fire was so hot and large that it could be detected in space. Residents are first advised to shelter-in-place, though later air tests show that the incident posed no immediate danger. Five people are injured, and an executive director of the Clean Air Council says residents “narrowly dodged a catastrophe.” Activists call for the refinery’s closure.

        Updated locator map of the refinery explosion on June 21, 2019, at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in South Philadelphia
        Updated locator map of the refinery explosion on June 21, 2019, at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in South Philadelphia

        June 22, 2019

        Shifting focus: A fire, albeit small, still flickers, while spotlight shifts to whether the immediate area was exposed to hydrofluoric fluoride, one of the most toxic materials handled in the refinery. Exposure could cause skin and respiratory irritation and be fatal in larger doses.

        June 23, 2019

        Fire out: The refinery blaze is extinguished after officials shut off the gas valve fueling the fire.

        June 24, 2019

        Investigation: The investigation into what exactly cause the explosion gets underway, involving multiple federal and local agencies.

        Tuesday, June 25, 2019:

        Health concerns: Mayor Jim Kenney notes that “there are no findings that would suggest a threat to public health.” Dr. Caroline Johnson, a deputy health commissioner for the city, said hydrogen fluoride was not released.

        Wednesday, June 26, 2019

        Closure: The city confirms that Philadelphia Energy Solutions is set to close, and more than 1,000 workers will be impacted. While the shuttering is set to happen within the next month, gas prices were already sent surging. The confirmation of the refinery’s shuttering — as well as the closing of Hahnemann University Hospital — is expected to be a major blow to Philadelphia’s economy.

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