Tag Archives: Foam

FRA Official: Speed doesn’t appear to be factor in oil train derailment; may need to use dry chemical on lingering fires

Repost from The Star Tribune | Nation, Minneapolis, MN
[Editor: An updated version of this appears on the Associated Press.  – RS]

Official: Speed doesn’t appear to be factor in oil train derailment in southern West Virginia

By Associated Press, Updated: February 19, 2015 – 2:05 PM

MOUNT CARBON, W.Va. — A federal official says speed doesn’t appear to be a factor in an oil train derailment in southern West Virginia.

Federal Railroad Administration acting administrator Sarah Feinberg said Thursday the CSX train was going 33 mph at the time of Monday’s crash in the town of Mount Carbon. The speed limit was 50 mph.

The derailment shot fireballs into the sky, leaked oil into a Kanawha River tributary and destroyed a house. Nineteen of the 107 tank cars were involved in the fires, which continued smoldering Thursday. The fires have prevented investigators from gaining full access to the crash scene.

Feinberg says it might be necessary to use a dry chemical to douse the fires, out of worry that using water or spray foam would wash oil into the river.

Preparing for a railway disaster in Ashland, Virginia

Repost from The Herald-Progress, Ashland, VA

Preparing for a railway disaster in Ashland

January 28, 2015

Every day, 40 trains carry 30,000 loads of freight – some containing volatile materials – while another 22 trains transport 6,000 passengers through the “Center of the Universe.”

A lot could go wrong.

But CSX and local emergency services officials assured members of town council last week that stringent planning and strong communication between agencies should help ensure a swift response in the event of a train emergency or prevent one all together.

The issue of rail safety is tied to what Bryan Rhode, CSX regional vice president in charge of state government affairs in Virginia, called an “energy revolution” currently underway in the United States.

Crowds line the train tracks in downtown Ashland as a CSX train makes its way through town in this 2012 Herald-Progress file photo.
Crowds line the train tracks in downtown Ashland as a CSX train makes its way through town in this 2012 Herald-Progress file photo

With increased domestic oil production come questions about how to get those resources to market. Rhode said that traditionally, crude oil would be transported by pipeline, but that infrastructure doesn’t exist in many of the new areas where the raw materials are being extracted, and that’s where rail comes in.

“This idea of moving crude [oil] by rail really sprung up a couple years ago,” Rhode said. “I’ve talked to people who have been with CSX much longer than I have and they tell me if somebody had come to them five years ago and said we’d be moving crude oil by rail, they would have said, ‘You’re crazy.’”

But it’s now something railroads are doing in increasing volumes even though Rhode said transporting crude oil still only constitutes about 2 percent of CSX’s business.

The issue has received increasing attention following a CSX train derailment in Lynchburg last April, when a large shipment of crude oil exploded along the James River and near the city’s downtown sector.

“In a lot of ways we got very lucky because nobody was hurt or killed,” Rhode said. “But it was still something that impacted Lynchburg, impacted the James River and something that we strive every day to avoid allowing to happen again.”

Even prior to the Lynchburg crash, there had been a push for safer crude oil transport. In February 2013 the Federal Railroad Administration issued a number of emergency orders and regulations aimed at enhancing safety. Following the crash, Rhode said the federal government implemented more stringent regulations concerning the shipment of crude oil by rail and HAZMAT materials, in general.

But despite those regulations and what Rhode called a culture of safety at CSX, accidents still can and do occur.

“We do everything we can to prevent accidents from happening, but when you’re moving huge amounts of material in large equipment, we all recognize that sometimes, despite our best efforts, things do happen,” Rhode said. “Our goal is zero preventable accidents.”

Emergency plans in place

Hanover is contained in the RF&P sub-division of what CSX calls its Baltimore division, bookended by Richmond to the south and Philadelphia to the north.

According to Henry Moore, division chief of planning for Hanover Fire-EMS, molten sulfur and crude oil comprise half of all hazardous materials making their way through the county on a daily basis. Ethanol carloads are also increasing with about 210,000 gallons of the volatile substance making its way by rail to Stafford County on a daily basis.

Moore said Hanover and the region have bolstered their foam suppression capabilities in preparation for a derailment or catastrophic event and that regional response teams routinely participate in emergency exercises in preparation for railroad accidents where hazardous materials are present.

Hanover has in place a standard operating guideline for responding to railroad emergencies and also maintains an initial responder checklist for public safety personnel created for joint response to train crises.

Anthony Callahan, deputy chief of the Ashland Police Department, said all Ashland officers are trained in how to handle critical incidents. In the advent of a train-related incident, responding officers are taught to first establish communication and to contact other resources. Officers are also instructed to designate a “danger zone,” where only emergency responders are allowed, and to set up inner and outer perimeters. They would then implement an incident command post to direct emergency personnel and secure a staging area for other first responders.

However, Callahan said that his officers will assume different roles based on the severity of the actual incident. In cases where a car is stuck on the tracks, for example, Callahan said the first responding unit would get in touch with CSX and work to get the occupants out of the vehicle, with the immediate consideration being the health and safety of individuals on scene and in the area.

In cases where there has been a collision requiring any sort of spill cleanup, Callahan said Fire-EMS would take the lead, with APD in a support role.

In case of an incident, Rhode said CSX also brings a number of resources to the table, including trained personnel and heavy equipment staged throughout its network to ensure a quick response.

If a community is impacted, CSX steps up to offer relocation services and local aid.

Rhode said that in the advent of an actual emergency, cross-jurisdictional communication is key. In the case of the Lynchburg incident, officials from CSX had existing relationships with state and local emergency response teams.

“We weren’t handing out business cards. We all knew each other; we’d worked together before,” Rhode said. “If you don’t know each other and you’re not talking to each other before [an emergency] happens, you’re probably going to have issues.”

Fortunately, ties are strong between CSX and local fire, EMS and law enforcement agencies, officials told town council.

Rhode said CSX partners with local first responders to make sure they have the training they need to effectively respond to an incident. This takes place through online courses and local “tabletop” exercises on up to specialized, in-person, training dealing specifically with crude oil accidents.

Moore said Fire-EMS is in the final stages of planning a joint Amtrak derailment tabletop exercise in Ashland with Randolph-Macon College and the Ashland Police Department. The training should take place in the coming spring, one more safeguard aimed at ensuring this train town also remains a safe town.


Survey Finds Oregon Fire Departments Not Equipped For Oil Train Accident

Repost from Oregon Public Broadcasting (NPR)
[Editor: Interesting video interview with Portland Fire & Rescue – scroll down the page.  And yes, you KNEW I would have to ask: has the California State Fire Marshall (Tonya Hoover) undertaken a similar survey?  Here is the Cal. Fire Marshall’s contact information.  – RS]

Survey Finds Oregon Fire Departments Not Equipped For Oil Train Accident

By Cassandra Profita, Jan. 15, 2015

A survey by the Oregon State Fire Marshal found 81 percent of the state’s fire departments don’t have the equipment they need to respond to an oil train accident.

In a report to Gov. John Kitzhaber’s office, the fire marshal tallied up $2.7 million in “start-up” costs for the additional equipment, personnel and training needed for the state to prepare for a crude oil incident.

The governor’s office says it’s unclear where that money would come from, but the governor is working with lawmakers to bridge the gap.

“Rail safety is a priority for the governor,” said Kitzhaber spokesman Chris Pain. “It’s very important to him to address these gaps and to figure out how to get the additional resources to support our already well-trained hazmat teams and other first responders across the state.”

Explosive oil train derailments in the U.S. and Canada over the past couple years have raised safety concerns as more and more crude oil travels by rail through the Northwest.

In response, Kitzhaber is studying what his state needs to handle an oil train emergency.

safety gap assessment report ordered by the governor last year concluded the state needs more rail safety inspectors and training for emergency responders. It also concluded that the Oregon State Fire Marshal should find out whether fire departments are equipped to respond to a derailment if it happens here.

After a survey of 127 fire chiefs, the fire marshal has concluded that most are not; 81 percent said their departments don’t have the equipment needed to respond to a crude oil incident.

Around 50 fire departments said they’re lacking firefighting foam and oil-absorbing boom. Dozens of departments also reported lacking personal protective equipment, air monitors and foam applicators. Of those surveyed, 80 fire departments reported their jurisdictions have railways carrying crude oil or other hazardous materials.

“The overriding takeaway is a majority of fire agencies with crude oil trains traveling through their jurisdictions indicate they do not have enough equipment to respond to a crude oil incident,” the fire marshal’s report concludes.

The report recommends adding six trailers equipped with firefighting foam and protective gear at strategic locations throughout the state to make up for the shortfall.

That won’t get every fire agency the materials they would need to respond to an oil train accident, the report says, but it would spread essential equipment across the state so it will be accessible in case of an emergency. The report also notes that in addition to the $2.7 million in start-up costs, there will be ongoing maintenance costs in future years.

Scappoose Fire Chief Mike Greisen, whose agency sees about a dozen oil trains pass through its jurisdiction every month on their way to an oil terminal near Clatskanie, said his department can’t afford the firefighting foam and special training it needs to be ready in case one of those trains derails. He’s applied for a $20,000 grant to pay for his firefighters to take a training class.

“We can’t afford to practice because foam is $32 a gallon and you can go through five gallons a minute,” he said.

He said the state should step in to help local fire departments get the equipment they need.

“They really need to sit down and figure out where some funding is going to come from,” he said.

Fire Chief Tim Moor at Redmond Fire and Rescue said he thinks the railroads should bear the primary responsibility for responding to an oil train incident because the state won’t be able to afford all the equipment needed.

“They need to be accountable when they’re transporting it,” he said. “Should there be a derailment or accident, it’s probably going to come down to the private sector and then state agencies doing the best they can with the equipment we have.”

Albany NY Area officials say crude-oil transport is getting safer

Repost from The Press Republican, Plattsburgh, NY
[Editor: the safety improvements showcased here are far from adequate, nevertheless, it’s a good update on conditions in New York.  Sen. Schumer is absolutely right – the DOT-111 tank cars should be taken out of service immediately… and not just in New York.  And Bakken crude should be stabilized before it is transported (not just conditioned) … just as it is in Texas.  – RS]

Area officials say crude-oil transport is getting safer

Lohr McKinstry, December 6, 2014

LEWIS — New state regulations on crude-oil trains should help make them safer, Emergency Services officials from Essex and Clinton counties said recently.

State agencies have implemented 66 actions designed to strengthen standards, regulations and procedures to make the transport of crude oil by rail and water in New York safer and to improve spill preparedness and response.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo received a status report outlining the progress made by multiple state agencies after they were directed to evaluate the state’s capacity to prevent and address crude-oil accidents.

Local leaders have been concerned about the 100-car-plus oil trains moving through Clinton and Essex counties as the crude oil extracted in North Dakota arrives via Canadian Pacific Railway trains.

The oil is on its way to the Port of Albany, where it is stored for transport to various refineries.


Essex County Emergency Services Director Donald Jaquish said he sees the new procedures as a safety benefit to the North Country.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” he told the Press-Republican. “We’re in a better position than we were a year ago.”

There’s been concern the trains could derail, and the oil burn or explode, as it has in other regions, and Jaquish praised Canadian Pacific for trying to make the tracks and tank cars safer.

“Upgrading the DOT-111 tank cars, rail replacement and maintenance, and specialized training are all beneficial to safety.

“Canadian Pacific has been helping us with training, hands-on-experience, that first responders need for these situations.”


The tank cars are not owned by Canadian Pacific but by oil companies and vendors, and as a federal common carrier, the railroad is required to transport them.

Both the railroad and federal regulators have pushed for upgrades to the DOT-111 single-shell cars or a switch to the stronger DOT-109 or 112 cars.

“In almost any situation we get, we will be doing evacuations,” Jaquish said. “We’ve been working with Clinton County on planning and implementation.”

Clinton County Emergency Services Director Eric Day said any improvements to the transport of oil cars are welcome.

“At the end of the day, what they’ve done is good, no question,” Day told the Press-Republican. “Any regulatory move to make the DOT-111 cars safer is a plus. It’s a long time coming.”

One problem is that there are thousands of DOT-111 tank cars still in service, he said.

“There are so many of them (DOT-111 cars) out there on the tracks. They’re not going to stop moving the oil before they fix the cars. The oil is not going to stop coming any time soon.”


Day said enhanced state regulations on oil shipments will be helpful.

“If there are changes that are pushed upon them (shippers), it can only make it safer. We’ve seen some of the benefits of the state’s work with regard to planning,” he said.

“We have guidance now on firefighting potential on dealing with these things. There are so many variables. Multiple cars of this crude oil on fire are a different animal.”

He said that, thanks to a donation, they now have the foam needed for such fires. The expensive product costs $30,000 for 1,000 gallons of foam but puts out crude-oil-based fires.


The North Dakota Industrial Commission has proposed draft regulations to remove the volatile gases from the oil before it is shipped, and Day said that provision is a good one.

“One of the things that makes the Bakken crude so volatile are the gases in the oil. The gas works its way out and is stuck in the head space of the car. If they breech, there’s flammable gas; cars that aren’t breeched and heat up, the gas could expand and be a problem.

“Removing that gas is a possibility before they put in the cars and ship it. If they could do that, it’s a big win.”


Cuomo called for the federal government to mandate tank-car upgrades or replacement.

“The federal government plays a vital role in regulating this industry, and Washington must step up in order to expedite the implementation of safer policies and rules for crude-oil transport,” he said in the release.

The governor said the oil-production industry has resisted stronger tank-car standards and regulations requiring companies to reduce the volatility of crude before shipment.

A new report from the Brattle Group for the Railroad Supply Institute, a trade group, showed that a proposed federal rule to upgrade rail-tank cars could cost $60 billion.

According to the report, the high price tag is largely due to the costs associated with potential modifications to tank cars, early retirement of existing tank cars, temporarily using trucks instead of rails for transport and lost service time for tank cars under modification or awaiting modification.


U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) has also come out against use of DOT-111 cars.

“These outmoded DOT-111 tank cars … are ticking time bombs that need to be upgraded ASAP,” the senator said in a news release.

“That is why for two years, since the tragedy at Lac-Megantic, I have pushed federal regulators to phase out and retrofit these cars.

“As a result of our efforts, the federal Department of Transportation has put a proposal on the table that could start taking these cars off the tracks within two years, as well as restrict the speeds at which these trains operate.”

On July 6, 2013, a 74-tank-car train carrying Bakken light crude derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, and the tank cars exploded, killing 47 people, destroying 30 buildings and spilling 1.5 million gallons of heavy crude oil.

That disaster was followed by oil-train-explosion derailments in Alabama, North Dakota, Illinois and New Brunswick, Canada.