Category Archives: Propane

LPG Tank Cars derail in Martinez – could have been a catastrophic event

Derailment in Martinez: the nightmare no one wants

By Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent – 05/01/2018
LPG tank car derailment Martinez 2018-05-01 (KTVU Fox 2 News)

Early this morning, at least two tank cars carrying liquid petroleum gas (LPG) derailed while backing into the Shell Refinery in Martinez, CA.  (See brief KTVU News coverage.)

Thank our lucky stars that those tank cars backing into the refinery did not tip over or leak!  Had they done so, and a spark ignited a fire, the accident might’ve resulted in a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion, or “BLEVE” (blɛviː/ BLEV-ee).

Sharon Kelly described a BLEVE this way on DeSmogBlog: “As liquids in a metal tank boil, gasses build up, pressurizing the tank even despite relief valves designed to vent fumes. Tanks finally explode, throwing shrapnel great distances, and spitting out burning liquids that can start secondary blazes.”

BLEVEs were responsible  for the massive degree of destruction and loss of life in Lac Magantic, Canada.  If those Martinez tank cars had caught fire and erupted, the whole Shell Refinery might’ve blown up!  Downtown Martinez, the AMTRAK station, and the 680 freeway might’ve been threatened.

LPG tank car derailment Martinez 2018-05-01 (KTVU News)

Photos of the derailed cars show the 4-digit Hazardous Material Identification Placard: 1075.  The Emergency Response Guidebook, published by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration identifies the code for 1075 on p. 31 as one of the following flammable materials:

Butane, Butylene Isobutane, Isobutylene, Liquefied petroleum gas, LPG, Petroleum gases, liquefied Propane Propylene.

This is EXTREMELY dangerous.  On p. 170 of the Emergency Response Guidebook, emergency responders are cautioned:

In fires involving Liquefied Petroleum Gases (LPG) (UN1075); Butane, (UN1011); Butylene, (UN1012); Isobutylene, (UN1055); Propylene, (UN1077); Isobutane, (UN1969); and Propane, (UN1978), also refer to BLEVE – SAFETY PRECAUTIONS (Page 368).

BLEVE is defined : “A boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion (BLEVE, /ˈblɛviː/ BLEV-ee) is an explosion caused by the rupture of a vessel containing a pressurized liquid that has reached temperatures above its boiling point.”

Page 368-369 of the Emergency Response Guidebook reads as follows:

BLEVE (Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion)
The following section presents, in a two-page format, background information on BLEVEs and includes a chart that provides important safety-related information to consider when confronted with this type of situation involving Liquefied Petroleum Gases (LPG), UN1075. LPGs include the following flammable gases: Butane, UN1011; Butylene, UN1012; Isobutylene, UN1055; Propylene, UN1077; Isobutane, UN1969; and Propane, UN1978.

What are the main hazards from a BLEVE?
The main hazards from a propane or LPG BLEVE are:
– fire
– thermal radiation from the fire
– blast
– projectiles
The danger from these decreases as you move away from the BLEVE centre. The furthest reaching hazard is projectiles.

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DERAILMENT: Callaway MN train semi-truck collision leads to propane explosion, evacuation

Repost from FOX 9, Eden Prairie MN
[Editor:  It was the truck carrying propane that exploded, not the train. Firefighters let it burn into the night.  Derailed train cars ended up very near another stationary propane tank, but did not hit it.  – RS]

Railroad: Video shows propane truck never stopped for train in Callaway, Minn.

POSTED: MAR 25 2016 02:29PM CDT, UPDATED: 02:38PM CDT

CALLAWAY, Minn. (KMSP) – Canadian Pacific Railway says its onboard video shows a propane tanker truck never stopped and pulled out in front of the train before Thursday’s fiery crash in Callaway, Minnesota. The northwestern Minnesota town of 200 people was evacuated as a precaution until the order was lifted at 10 a.m. Friday morning.

The crash happened at approximately 12:25 p.m. Thursday near Highway 59. Canadian Pacific said 11 empty train cars and one locomotive derailed as a result of the crash. None of the cars were carrying hazardous materials and none of the train cars caught on fire. The railroad said its train crew sounded the locomotive’s horn as the train approached the crossing.

Railroad: Video shows propane truck never stopped for train in Callaway, Minn.

Two members of the train crew sustained non-life-threatening injuries and were both taken to Essentia Hospital in Detroit Lakes, where they were treated and released Thursday afternoon.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will travel to Callaway on Saturday to visit the crash site and meet with railroad and community leaders.

Overnight explosion

Shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday, the propane tank at the scene exploded, sending a fireball into the air. No injuries were reported. According to the Becker County sheriff: “On March 24 at approximately 10:17 p.m., fire department crews were tending the propane tanker fire on the south side of the city of Callaway, Minn. At this time the tank failed causing immediate evacuation of all contents. All personnel at the scene were accounted for and uninjured.”

Cleanup progress

Canadian Pacific said its crews were able to access the site starting Thursday evening and began the process of clearing the rail line. Six railcars were moved to the side, while 5 were re-railed. Early Friday morning, engineering personnel began replacing track, and the first train passed through the site at 10:15 a.m. Friday.

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BUFFALO NEWS: The next train derailment could be far more disastrous

Repost from the Buffalo News

Another Voice: The next train derailment could be far more disastrous

By Jean Dickson & Larry Brooks, March 24, 2016 – 12:01AM

The March 1 train derailment in Ripley should serve as a warning to all residents of Western New York, and especially to those living close to the rail lines.

Many people give no thought to the passing freight trains that run along the Lake Erie shore, through our suburbs, and around the Beltline, which runs through Buffalo’s dense Black Rock, North, East Side and South neighborhoods with tracks crossing the Buffalo River in several places.

A century ago, there were even more tracks through the city, but the trains carried passengers and freight, which was mostly heavy and inert, such as grain, coal and lumber. If a car derailed, the only people hurt were those standing along the tracks. Now the freight includes huge quantities of hazardous chemicals, including chlorine gas, hydrochloric acid, ethanol, liquefied petroleum gas, propane and petroleum crude oil.

In Ripley, residents were very lucky that no spark lit up the ethanol and propane tank cars that derailed. In Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in July 2013, people were not so lucky: 47 people died when petroleum crude oil exploded and a large part of the town was burned. The downtown area is not yet habitable almost three years later, due to soil and water contamination.

Firefighters in Ripley knocked on doors to evacuate residents, but this took some time. The cars derailed at 9:30 p.m.; a resident interviewed by WBFO said he was awakened and evacuated at 11 p.m. If the cars had exploded, as in Quebec, this would have been much too late. In Buffalo, the number of people to evacuate would greatly exceed the 50 or so households evacuated in Ripley.

Ripley residents were also lucky that no tank cars of poisonous gas derailed. If one car of chlorine gas had burst open, it would have killed people for miles around, depending on wind conditions, even without a fire.

In Buffalo, this hazardous freight crosses more than 30 bridges, most of which are 100 or more years old. They belong to companies such as CSX and are used by many railroad companies. Some are in decrepit condition, rusty and dropping chunks of concrete on our roads as they fall apart.

While this railroad infrastructure is in corporate hands, the public has little influence on its condition. Before a deadly derailment occurs, we must do everything possible to inspect and repair bridges and to reroute the hazardous freight away from populated areas.

In the long run, we should make every effort to decrease the use of such hazardous chemicals.

Jean Dickson and Larry Brooks live adjacent to Beltline tracks in Buffalo.
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