Category Archives: Rail Safety

Rail industry phasing out DOT-111 tank cars involved in derailments ahead of deadline

Repost from The Jamestown Sun

Rail industry phasing out tank cars involved in Casselton derailment ahead of deadline

By John Hageman, Oct 24, 2017 12:27 p.m.
A fire from a train derailment burns uncontrollably as seen in this photograph Monday, Dec. 30, 2013, west of Casselton, N.D. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service

BISMARCK — Amid declining shipments, the rail industry is phasing out “less-safe” tank cars carrying crude oil ahead of rapidly approaching deadlines to do so.

The federally mandated deadlines to remove the DOT-111 tank cars from oil service came after several high-profile derailments involving Bakken crude. That included the deadly Lac-Megantic, Quebec, disaster in 2013 and the explosion near Casselton, N.D., later that year.

As of Jan. 1, DOT-111 cars without a protective steel layer known as a jacket can no longer carry crude oil. Those cars with the jacket must be phased out two months later.

A U.S. Department of Transportation report sent to Congress last month shows the number of those cars carrying crude oil has dropped dramatically over the past few years. In 2013, 14,337 of them carried crude oil, which sank to 366 last year.

That shift has been aided by a steep decline in Williston Basin rail exports over the past few years. A rush of activity in western North Dakota forced oil onto the tracks, but pipelines are now the dominant form of oil transportation, according to the North Dakota Pipeline Authority.

“The first phase, in terms of removing the DOT-111s … that’s moving along very nicely,” said John Byrne, vice chairman of the Railway Supply Institute’s Committee on Tank Cars. “Because there’s a surplus of cars available to take them out of service and replace them with compliant cars.”

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said the Dakota Access Pipeline helped push oil off the tracks when it went online earlier this year. But rail shipments across the country have been declining since 2014, according to the Association of American Railroads.

The latest BNSF Railway Co. report provided by the state Department of Emergency Services, dated September, shows as many as three oil trains moved through Cass County in one week, down from a high of 56 first reached in 2014.

Pointing to increased training for first responders, DES Hazardous Chemical Officer Jeff Thompson said they’re “more comfortable with the situation than we were before.” But that doesn’t mean they’ve let their guard down.

“There’s always the fear that (it) happens in the middle of a town. And that goes with all train derailments, not just crude oil,” he said.

About 476,000 gallons of oil spilled near Casselton in late December 2013 after an oil train slammed into a derailed grain car, sparking a fireball over the snowy landscape. Residents evacuated, but there were no deaths or serious injuries, the National Transportation Safety Board said.

Oil spilled from 18 of the derailed DOT-111 cars in that incident, according to the NTSB, which “long had concerns” about the “less-safe” tank cars because they’re not puncture resistant, have relatively thin shells and lack thermal protection.

In announcing the agency’s findings on the Casselton derailment in February, the NTSB’s then-Chairman Christopher Hart said “progress toward removing or retrofitting DOT-111s has been too slow.” Thousands of those cars are still being used to carry ethanol and other flammable liquids, which have later phase-out dates, according to the transportation department’s report.

By 2029, flammable liquids can only be carried in DOT-117s, which have thicker shells and insulating material, Byrne said. The new and retrofitted versions of those cars now represent 9 percent of the fleet carrying Class 3 flammable liquids, which includes crude oil and ethanol, according the transportation department report.

“There’s been a huge improvement in the overall safety of the cars moving crude today versus what we were looking at in 2013, 2014,” Byrne said.

    KCRA TV3 NEWS VIDEO: Valero’s oil train project halted by Benicia city leaders

    Repost from KCRA TV3, Sacramento CA
    [Editor: The video could not be embedded here on Benicia Indy, but it’s a good one – click the image to go to KCR3’s website for the video.  – RS]

    Valero’s oil train project halted by Benicia city leaders

    Crude oil train would have traveled through NorCal cities daily
    Sep 21, 2016, 9:10 PM PDT

    benicia_video_linkBENICIA, Calif. (KCRA) —Benicia City Councilmembers denied Valero’s plans Tuesday night to move forward on its crude-by-rail proposal, citing safety concerns.

    The project would have had trains transporting tens of thousands of crude oil – daily — to Benicia through Sacramento-area communities.

    In the city of Benicia, with a population just under 30,000, you can’t miss the large presence of Valero.

    “They provide a lot of money to the city,” Benicia resident John Geels said.

    The company is the largest employer, providing 20 percent to the general fund. So, it became a big deal last night when city council members told the company “No.”

    “We denied the appeal that Valero put forward, after the planning commission unanimously denied their application for a permit,” Benicia Councilmember Christina Strawbridge said.

    That permit would have paved the way for an expansive crude oil project impacting Northern California cities.

    For years, the issue went beyond the borders of Benicia, as the public and other jurisdictions expressed concerns over safety.

    “Right in the heart of Davis, we are in the blast zone right now,” Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor said. “And, that increased volume would increase the risk in our communities.”

    Ultimately, Benicia councilmembers voted unanimously to reject the plan, many citing recent oil train emergencies.

    “It gave me real pause,” Strawbridge said. “As far as rail safety, there’s been 13 different derailments since 2013.”

    Valero issued a response to the decision:

    “After nearly four years of review and analysis by independent experts and the city, we are disappointed that the city councilmembers have chosen to reject the crude by rail project. At this time, we are considering our options moving forward.”

    The divisive issue still has some residents split on the outcome.

    “I feel bad for Valero, and I’m sure it’s going to hurt them financially,” Geels said. “But, I’m glad they were turned down.”

    Meanwhile, others said the small city is making big waves, setting a new precedent as the conversation over crude oil transport continues.

    “So, it’s a milestone because this community stood up,” Saylor said.

    On Thursday morning, the planning commission in San Luis Obispo County will be taking up a similar hearing — for an oil-by-rail project proposed by Phillips 66.

      LATEST DERAILMENT: Diesel fuel leak in heart of Toronto, no injuries

      Repost from the Toronto Star

      Freight train derailment a ‘wake-up call’ on rail safety, councillor says

      Human error blamed for freight train derailment in heart of the city after a Canadian Pacific Railway train collided with another on Sunday morning.
      By Ebyan Abdigir, Aug. 21, 2016
      A CP Railway freight train derailed near Bathurst and Dupont Sts., early Sunday after two trains collided, causing a diesel fuel spill. CP blames human error for the collision.
      A CP Railway freight train derailed near Bathurst and Dupont Sts., early Sunday after two trains collided, causing a diesel fuel spill. CP blames human error for the collision. (ANDREW FRANCIS WALLACE / TORONTO STAR)

      Human error is being blamed for a freight train derailment in the heart of Toronto Sunday morning that had crews scrambling to contain a diesel fuel leak.

      The derailment happened after a train struck the tail of another train at about 5:20 a.m. near Dupont and Bathurst Sts., Canadian Pacific Railway spokesperson Martin Cej told the Star.

      No one was injured in the collision and subsequent derailment and the diesel fuel leak, which Toronto police said had not been a threat to public safety, was quickly contained.

      Cej said that one car was carrying batteries and aerosols, which are classified as “dangerous goods” under Canadian regulation, but they did not leak, he confirmed.

      City councillor Josh Matlow raised new concerns Sunday about freight trains running through densely populated neighbourhoods.

      A CN train derailed near Bridgeman and Howland Aves., East of Bathurst and Dupont Sts.
      A CN train derailed near Bridgeman and Howland Aves., East of Bathurst and Dupont Sts.  (ANDREW FRANCIS WALLACE) 

      “While it was incredibly fortunate no one was hurt today, this derailment should act as a wake-up call for the federal government to move swiftly on rail safety,” he said.

      This spring, Mayor John Tory, Matlow and 16 other councillors whose wards are nestled by rail lines, signed a letter sent to Marc Garneau, the federal Transport Minister, calling for better rail safety.

      The 2016 federal budget allocated $143 million to be used over three years to improve rail safety.

      Cej said “early indications” point to human error as the cause of Sunday’s collision and derailment and that equipment failure was not a factor.

      Bartlett Ave., north of Dupont, was closed while police and rail officials investigated the incident.

      A crowd gathers near where a CP Railway train derailed near Bathurst and Dupont Sts. on Sunday morning.
      A crowd gathers near where a CP Railway train derailed near Bathurst and Dupont Sts. on Sunday morning.   (ANDREW FRANCIS WALLACE)

      Although there were no dangerous goods on board either train Sunday, roughly 9 per cent of goods transported by CP in Ontario are regulated dangerous goods, according to a disclosure to Transport Canada for 2015.

      A 2014 investigation by Star reporter Jessica McDiarmid monitored CP’s rail line that crosses Barlett Ave. on its way to Dupont St. in the Junction before it goes northward, west of the Don Valley.

      Between two 12-hour shifts, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., the Star found that more than 130 cars and tanks carried dangerous goods such as crude oil, methyl bromide and ethyl trichlorosilane, and more.

      A little over three years ago, a train hauling 72 cars of crude oil, derailed in Lac-Mégantic, Que. It resulted in an inferno that killed 47 people, and spilled six million litres of crude.

      Since the 2013 Lac-Mégantic disaster, rail companies are required to provide information to municipalities for emergency planning, however, under strict confidentiality agreements. Canada’s largest railroads already did this upon request.

      In February 2015, the federal government introduced a bill that increased the amount of insurance railways must carry to cover costs in the event of a derailment.

      A worker grabs hold of the railing of a derailed CN engine near Bridgeman and Howland Aves. on August 21.
      A worker grabs hold of the railing of a derailed CN engine near Bridgeman and Howland Aves. on August 21.  (ANDREW FRANCIS WALLACE) 

      With files from Fakiha Baig and Star Staff