Tag Archives: Montreal

Rail company ends shipping of crude oil in Maine & New Hampshire

Repost from The Portland Press Herald
[Editor:  Interesting summary of various effects on rail companies following the Lac-Mégantic disaster.  – RS]

Irving ends rail shipping of crude oil through Maine

The cutback is due to a drop in global demand and is not related to the Lac-Megantic rail disaster, the firm says.
By Tom Bell, July 15, 2015

Irving Oil has stopped shipping crude oil on railroads through Maine and has no plans to revive the practice.

The Canadian company, which operates an oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick, confirmed the policy change in a June 30 email to the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting.

The change means there will be no more oil shipments though New Hampshire and southern and central Maine on Pan Am Railways. In addition, there will be no more oil shipments on the Eastern Maine Railway, which connects with Pan Am at Mattawamkeag and continues through Washington County to the Canadian border.

The cutback is because of global oil-supply-and-demand issues and is not related to the fallout from the Lac-Megantic rail disaster, Mark Sherman, Irving’s chief operating officer, told the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting. The U.S. demand for Canadian-produced petroleum products has declined in the wake of an oversupply of oil from domestic and Mideast sources.

In 2012, Maine railroads shipped 5.2 million barrels of crude oil, but shipments declined sharply after the July 6, 2013 accident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, when an unattended 74-car freight train carrying Bakken crude oil rolled and derailed, resulting in a fire and explosion that killed 47 people.

The railroad involved in the disaster, the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, never carried oil again and went bankrupt. Its successor, the Central Maine & Quebec Railway, also has never carried oil because of political opposition in Lac-Megantic.

Pan Am, whose trains travel through Portland, carried just 15,545 barrels of oil in all of 2014, according to records the company filed with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. In 2015, Pan Am has carried 37,128 barrels. All those shipments occurred in February, the last month the railroad delivered oil to the Irving refinery, according to the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting.

An official with Pan Am could not immediately be reached for comment.

John Giles, CEO of Central Maine & Quebec Railway, had been seeking an agreement with Lac-Megantic officials to restart oil train shipments through the Canadian town. On Tuesday, Giles said the railroad does not need to carry oil to be profitable.

“I was never counting on moving crude oil in the first place,” Giles said.

Giles said his railroad spent $10 million to upgrade the rail line last year and is spending $6 million this year, with about half of that investment in Maine.

An investigation after the Lac-Megantic accident found that the tank-car labels understated the flammability of the oil. Twenty-five companies have offered a total of $431 million (Canadian) to settle lawsuits arising out of the disaster. Irving Oil’s contribution is $75 million. The settlement is being considered by U.S. and Canadian courts.

Oil companies pay into compensation fund for Quebec train crash – deny further liability

Repost from The Hill

Oil companies pay into compensation fund for Quebec train crash

By Timothy Cama – 06/11/15 08:35 AM EDT
This July 16, 2013, file photo shows firefighters and workers at the crash site of a train derailment that killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. A watchdog from the Justice Department is looking for transparency on dollar amounts that oil companies are paying into a fund for victims of the crash. —Ryan Remiorz/Associated Press

Oil companies have contributed tens of millions of dollars toward a fund to compensate victims of a major 2013 oil train disaster in Quebec, Canada, that killed 47.

Companies like Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Marathon Oil Corp., ConocoPhillips Co. and Irving Oil Ltd. have paid into the $345 million fund, though they deny responsibility for the events on the train transporting their products, The Wall Street Journal reports.

If courts in the United States and Canada approve the oil companies’ role in the fund, the companies will be shielded from liability for any negligence they had involving the disaster in Lac-Megantic, including for failing to test the oil’s vulnerability.

The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Ltd., which ran the train that derailed and exploded, filed for bankruptcy shortly after the incident.

But its court-appointed trustee said the oil companies knew that the oil was volatile and dangerous.

The oil companies have responded that their responsibility ended when they extracted the oil.

Most of the companies that contributed to the fund declined to comment to The Wall Street Journal. Marathon Oil told the newspaper that its contribution is not an acknowledgment of liability.

The Quebec disaster led officials in both Canada and the United States to pay new attention to the use of oil trains, which has increased dramatically in recent years along with oil production in places like the Bakken shale region.

It has resulted in rules in both countries that will ban the use of the oldest tank cars for oil in the coming years, as well as speed restrictions and other operational regulations.

Some Democratic lawmakers, led by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), have pushed for regulations limiting oil volatility in rail transport.

Transportation Safety Board of Canada adds new demands to emergency directive

Repost from The Wall Street Journal
Editor: This story is also covered in railway-technology.com and The Globe and Mail.  – RS]

Canada’s TSB Concerned Railway Safety ‘Remains Inadequate’

Transportation Safety Agency Concerned Over Ottawa’s Oversight of Railway Companies

By Judy McKinnon, Jan. 28, 2015

Canada’s transportation safety agency said Wednesday it is concerned that Ottawa’s oversight of railway companies remains inadequate, while noting that measures now in place would significantly reduce the risk of runaway trains.

Last year, the agency recommended several measures to strengthen rail safety after a 2013 oil-train derailment in Quebec killed 47 people and devastated the small town of Lac-Mégantic.

“While recognizing significant positive action taken by the regulator, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada remains concerned about Transport Canada’s response to outstanding recommendations,” the agency said Wednesday.

Transport Canada is the Canadian federal ministry responsible for rail transportation.

The TSB said it is specifically concerned the ministry hasn’t yet put in place an effective oversight process “that guarantees all railways will be audited in sufficient breadth and frequency to ensure safety issues are addressed in a timely manner.”

Canadian Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt said the ministry has taken action to boost oversight. “As part of our response to the Transportation Safety Board, Transport Canada will be conducting full (safety management systems) audits of federally regulated railway companies on a three-to-five-year cycle,” Ms. Raitt’s spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

In August, the TSB cited 18 factors for the Lac-Mégantic disaster, including a weak safety culture at the train’s operator—Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway Ltd.—and lax regulatory oversight. The derailment sharply raised concerns about the growing transportation of crude by rail and was followed by a number of other fiery but non-deadly accidents.

Among the TSB’s recommendations was that Transport Canada audit the safety management systems of all railways on a regular basis to confirm that safety measures are in place, and more measures to secure trains.

Transport Canada hasn’t yet shown that an effective oversight regime has been implemented, which could lead to a lag in identifying safety issues, the TSB said Wednesday.

As for preventing runaway trains, the agency said it is satisfied that Transport Canada has introduced “multiple layers” of defenses that, if fully implemented, will significantly reduce risks.

“The Minister of Transport and the department have taken strong action to improve rail safety in the wake of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, but more work needs to be done,” the safety agency said.

Last year, the TSB found that the 72-car train derailed after being left unattended and improperly secured on a descending grade despite indications there were mechanical problems with the lead locomotive. The agency said then that the now-defunct railway didn’t properly train and oversee its crews and lacked fully functioning safety-management processes.

“As we have always said, and as the Transportation Safety Board report clearly indicates, this was a case where rules were not followed,” Ms. Raitt’s spokeswoman said Wednesday.

—Nirmala Menon contributed to this article.

Previously secret details: Bakken crude oil rolling over Ohio rails

Repost from The Columbus Dispatch

Bakken crude oil rolls over Ohio rails

By Laura Arenschield & Rick Rouan, January 29, 2015
Ohio’s railroad tracks handle at least 45 million gallons of Bakken crude oil in a week. This view of tracks is from Groveport Road on the South Side. | Tom Dodge | Dispatch

Millions of gallons of some of the most volatile crude oil in North America are being transported on rail lines through Ohio each week, according to reports that the state had kept secret until this week.

The railroad-company reports show that 45 million to 137 million gallons of Bakken crude oil come through Ohio each week from North Dakota oil fields on the way to East Coast refineries.

Two million to 25 million gallons a week come through Franklin County alone.

Bakken crude oil is desirable to oil and gas companies because it requires less refining than other shale oil to be turned into diesel fuel and gasoline. It also is highly flammable.

Prompted by a 2013 train derailment and explosion that killed 47 people in Quebec and an explosion in Lynchburg, Va., last April, federal regulators began requiring railroads in May to report the average weekly number of trains carrying at least 1 million gallons of Bakken crude.

Those reports are sent to state emergency-management agencies. The U.S. Department of Transportation has said the files don’t contain sensitive security details, prompting some states, including Virginia and Washington, to make the reports public.

Despite requests from environmental groups, citizens and news outlets, including one from The Dispatch in July, Ohio would not release the reports, citing an exemption in the public-records law meant to prevent acts of terrorism.

Then this week, the state released the records to Lea Harper, managing director of the FreshWater Accountability Project, an environmental advocacy group.

The state released the reports to The Dispatch yesterday.

“So many other states are doing it, and our legal staff started looking into it and made a determination that it probably was not as volatile of information as it first seemed to be,” said Joseph Andrews, a spokesman for the State Emergency Response Commission in Ohio.

One of Harper’s relatives lives in a nursing home in Seneca County, near railroad tracks where Bakken crude-oil shipments pass each week. She said she worries about his safety.

“Anything that has happened in the past can certainly happen again,” she said, referencing the explosions in Virginia and Quebec.

No Bakken shipments have exploded or caught fire in Ohio, Andrews said.

Transport of crude oil via rail has surged in recent years amid the boom in the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota.

The amount of crude petroleum hauled on U.S. railroads increased from more than 20 million tons in 2012 to nearly 40 million tons in 2013, the most recent data available through the Association of American Railroads. In 2011, about 5 million tons of crude was hauled by rail.

That number includes all oil, not just Bakken crude oil.

With nearly 5,300 miles of track, Ohio has one of the densest concentrations of rail in the nation and is a crossroads between the Bakken shale formation and East Coast refineries.

Most of the Bakken crude traveling through Ohio is being transported on CSX rail lines. The CSX report shows that 30 million to 105 million gallons of Bakken crude are hauled through Ohio each week. Norfolk Southern moves 13 million to 28 million gallons of Bakken crude.

Norfolk Southern spokesman David Pidgeon said the company opposes public release of its routes for Bakken crude for security reasons.

“We have to balance that openness with operating a secure network,” Pidgeon said.

In an email, CSX spokeswoman Kristin Seay said crude-oil shipments represent less than 2 percent of the freight the railroad transports.

She said the company often goes beyond federal standards for track inspection and stays well within speed limits.

In February 2013, railroads opted for voluntary measures to ensure safe shipment of crude oil, including reduced speed limits and more inspections.

Canadian Pacific Railway runs an average of three trains per week on a short stretch of Norfolk Southern rail that cuts through northwestern Ohio. Those trains cross from Indiana into Williams County and travel northeast through Fulton County before crossing into Michigan.

The train that exploded in Quebec started as a Canadian Pacific train. The company transferred the train to Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway in Canada before the derailment.

Canadian Pacific has made several changes since, including tighter security requirements, more frequent inspections of tracks and equipment and more worker training, said Andy Cummings, a company spokesman.

“We took a very close look at our practices,” he said.

The reports sent to state emergency-management agencies do not say when Bakken crude oil is coming through Ohio. Railroad companies are not required to report schedules for those shipments.

In Cuyahoga County, 29 million to 45 million gallons of Bakken crude travel along rail lines each week.

“It’s a concern,” said Walter Topps, Cuyahoga County’s emergency-management agency administrator. “It’s not a concern in the sense that we’re not ready. But there’s an awareness in the first-responder community, among fire departments … we’re all aware of this.”