Offloading crude oil unit train causes terrible smells

Repost from The Natchez Democrat

Pungent odor has company holding nose

By Vershal Hogan  |  April 26, 2014

NATCHEZ — A spokeswoman for Genesis Energy said the company is looking into what may have made a delivery of crude oil to its Natchez terminal last week particularly malodorous.

Genesis operates a crude oil unloading facility in the Natchez-Adams County Port. Unit trains — that is, large transport trains — bring the oil to the port area, where Genesis loads it onto barges destined for the Gulf Coast refinery markets.

When a train was unloaded April 19, the crude oil was unusually smelly, and the smell was logged at the Adams County Sheriff’s Office as a hazardous materials incident, and the Natchez Fire Department responded to the area.

“We are looking into what caused it, because it was a little more noticeable than normal, and we are looking into ways to mitigate it in the future,” Genesis Spokeswoman Jennifer Stewart said.

Stewart said the smell was that of an intensified odor associated with crude oil, while Natchez Fire Chief Oliver Stewart said fire crews were looking for a natural gas leak based on the smell.

Chief Stewart said in addition to the fire department, Atmos Energy, which is also located in the port area, helped with the hunt for the smell with its leak-detecting equipment, he said.

Gene Perkins, who lives in the area, likewise said he smelled natural gas associated with the train. Perkins said last Saturday was not the only time that has occurred.

“The smell is so strong sometimes we get to where we can’t go outside,” he said.

“I am not trying to cause any problems for anybody. I would just like for the smell to go away.”

Perkins said based on conversations he has had with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, he believes the odor is associated with the cleaning of the tanks Genesis unloads.

Jennifer Stewart said that’s not the case because Genesis doesn’t clean the tanks in Natchez.

“They are unloaded, and then they are sent back to where they came from,” she said.

“We are strictly an unloading and loading facility.”

Jennifer Stewart said Genesis does not use any chemicals that smell like natural gas at the Natchez facility, but does use some natural gas in its operations.

More Trains equal More Train Crashes with cars and trucks; trend reversal

Repost from The Milwaukee Wisconsin Sentinel Journal
[Editor: Note that references here to Wisconsin’s “frac sand mining” are NOT describing tar-sands mining of bitumen.  Rather, there is a boom in Wisconsin for “SILICA SAND, which is mined and exported to states like North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas where it is used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The tough, crystallized sand, unique to the Wisconsin-Minnesota area, is hard enough to break through rock and release natural gas.”  Source: The Cap Times.  – RS]

More trains lead to more crashes with vehicles in Wisconsin

Recent booms in sand mining in Wisconsin and crude oil from shale in North Dakota.

By Lydia Mulvany of the Journal Sentinel  |  April 26, 2014 3:49 p.m.

Laurel Norlander grew up down the road from train tracks that trace the edge of Lake Wissota outside Chippewa Falls.

She’d been crossing those tracks her whole life, but that didn’t help the night of Jan. 3, 2013. The 60-year-old was returning to town after a visit to her parents’ home. She stopped at the stop sign before the tracks, but didn’t see or hear an oncoming Canadian National train. The train conductor told investigators he blew the whistle, but Norlander says she’s sure the train never did. They collided, leaving her with a totaled car and a bruised leg.

“It was very bizarre, and I’m grateful to be alive,” she said. “But at an uncontrolled intersection, it would sure be nice if they would blow the horn.”

Norlander’s crash was the first of 60 crashes between trains and highway users in 2013, the highest number Wisconsin has seen in five years. Injuries are at a six-year high, at 21. In addition, there were three deaths.

One possible factor in the rise is increased train traffic in the state, a result of recent booms in sand mining in Wisconsin and crude oil from shale in North Dakota.

Products of the state’s sand mining operations, which have grown from a handful in 2010 to well over 100, are used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a process for extracting oil and natural gas. Crude oil, some of which passes by rail through Wisconsin, has similarly exploded. According to the American Association of Railroads, railroads nationwide transported 9,500 carloads of crude in 2008. In 2012, that number jumped to 234,000, and the most recent estimates for 2013 are around 400,000.

Trains on the tracks where Norlander was struck used to be few and far between, Norlander said, but a new sand plant in town has changed that.

“There’s been quite an increase in train traffic,” she said.

Jeff Plale, the state’s commissioner of railroads, said it seemed as if trains and cars were crashing every time he turns around.

“We have more trains going through the state, they’re heavier, they’re longer. Stop playing with the trains,” he said. “I’m just tired of it, because these (accidents) are so preventable.”

Plale said that besides increased train traffic, some railroads that weren’t in use have been revived, so people aren’t accustomed to seeing the trains.

“All of a sudden you’ve gone from having no trains or very few, and now you have a whole bunch of them. It’s a matter of being cognizant and safe,” he said.

Much of the sand mining activity in Wisconsin has occurred in the region governed by the Western Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, which includes Chippewa County. Train-highway incidents there are at their highest in more than a decade.

According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analysis, there were 11 crashes with trains at highway crossings in Barron, Chippewa, Clark, Dunn, Eau Claire and St. Croix counties. It hasn’t been that high since 2001, a year when the state saw more than 100 rail-highway incidents.

Rail accidents at road crossings have been steadily declining since a peak in the late 1970s, when the annual totals for Wisconsin were 450 and higher. In contrast, there were just 33 crashes in 2010.

Federal Rail Administration spokesman Michael England said reasons for the decline are stepped-up enforcement, advances in technology and a large increase in crossings with lights and gates.

There are more than 4,000 rail-highway crossings in Wisconsin. Of these, about 800 have both flashing lights and gates, a thousand have flashing lights, and 2,200 have only crossbucks. The average cost of installing gates is around $200,000, and the Office of the Commissioner of Railroads spends $4.4 million a year upgrading crossings.

Whatever the signage, crossings can be deadly. In many of the 2013 accidents, drivers went around gates or failed to stop. But cars also got stuck on the rails, in snow, or slid on ice into a train’s path.

Clarence Drewa, 87, a Palmyra resident, was driving Nov. 7 on Benson Ave. in Vernon when his tire got stuck in the railroad tracks. When he saw a train coming, he exited the car, his daughter, Sandra Stefanski, said. But the train struck the car and sent it hurling toward him. Among other injuries, his ribs were marred by fractures, and he died a week and a half later, she said.

The most tragic part was when two of his grandchildren, ages 5 and 6, were looking for their grandpa to come home.

“He was in all of our lives daily, and he was a very healthy man,” his daughter said.

PBS News Hour report on crude by rail; interview of NTSB Chair

Repost from PBS News Hour
[Editor: On this highly influential PBS Newshour video, reporter Judy Woodruff  gives background on recent derailments and explosions and concludes with an interview of NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman.  Hersman urges action by the regulatory agencies to phase out the deadly DOT-111 tank cars, as is being done in Canada.   This 8 minute video was seen by millions of PBS viewers on Wednesday, April 23.  (My apologies for the unavoidable commercial ad that begins this video.)  – RS]

Latest: Google on “crude oil train” 25 Apr 2014

Repost from Google Search

There are simply too many stories in the press lately for this one-person operation to post even the most significant.  So below you will find a quick Google glimpse at the headlines for today, with links to each.  I would particularly recommend:

Google Search +crude +oil +train
About 822 results (0.20 seconds)

For safe and healthy communities…