Tag Archives: Transportation Safety Board of Canada

CN Rail, BNSF Tackle Accidents as Group Seeks Ban on Oil Trains

Repost from Bloomberg News
[Editor:  Many groups have called for a moratorium on crude by rail; this may be the first time a highly respected national media outlet has highlighted this view in a headline.  New in this report: “The U.S. Department of Transportation said 14 cars were in a pileup and half of those were punctured. Emergency responders evacuated a 1-mile radius, which contained six homes.”  – RS]

CN Rail, BNSF Tackle Accidents as Group Seeks Ban on Oil Trains

March 8, 2015, by Doug Alexander9:33 AM PDT
Illinois Train Derailment
Smoke and flames erupt from the scene of a train derailment near Galena, Illinois, on March 5, 2015. Photographer: Mike Burley/Telegraph Herald via AP Photo

(Bloomberg) — Canadian National Railway Co. is building a 1,500-foot (457 meter) long track to bypass a burning train that derailed Saturday in northern Ontario, while BNSF Railway Co. crews are working to reopen track in rural Illinois after a train carrying oil derailed three days ago.

CN crews teamed with outside specialists are fighting the blaze after an eastbound train carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire around 2:45 a.m. near Gogama, about 600 kilometers north of Toronto, cutting off rail traffic between Toronto and Winnipeg, Manitoba. The BNSF train jumped the tracks Thursday afternoon near Galena, Illinois, about 160 miles west of Chicago, according to the railroad, a unit of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

The accidents bring to four the number of oil train wrecks in North America in the past three weeks, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. The environment group is calling for a halt to transport of oil by rail, which has surged since 2009 with the boom in crude production from shale.

“We need a moratorium on oil trains,” Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist at the center, which has fought to protect wildlife for 26 years, said in a March 7 statement. “The oil and railroad industries are playing Russian roulette with people’s lives and our environment.”

The BNSF train was carrying oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation for Mercuria Energy Group Ltd. Twenty-one of the train’s 105 cars, which include two sand cars as buffers, jumped the tracks Thursday afternoon. The U.S. Department of Transportation said 14 cars were in a pileup and half of those were punctured. Emergency responders evacuated a 1-mile radius, which contained six homes. No injuries have been reported.

BNSF plans to reopen its mainline track Monday, Mike Trevino, a spokesman for the railroad, said in a phone interview Sunday.

40-Fold Increase

North American oil producers have increased their reliance on rail as new pipelines failed to keep pace with a surge of production from shale. The typical rail car carries about 700 barrels of oil, according to data posted on BNSF’s website. The number of oil carloads rose more than 40-fold from 2009 through 2013, when 435,560 carloads were shipped, and kept climbing last year to an estimated 500,000, according to the Association of American Railroads.

The CN derailment damaged a bridge over a waterway as five tank cars ended up in the water, with some of them on fire, the Montreal-based railway said in a Saturday statement. Crews have placed three lines of booms on the river to contain the crude. Drinking water supplies to Gogama Village and a nearby Mattagami First Nation community are not affected, CN said.

“Fire suppression activities will begin later today,” spokesman Jim Feeny said Sunday in an e-mailed statement. “Residents will likely see occasional smoke plumes of various shades of black, gray or white. This is expected, normal, and poses no threat to the public or the environment.”

Pipeline Limits

The railcars, carrying crude oil from Alberta, are CPC-1232 models railroads began to roll out in 2011 to boost safety.

The accident marks the second derailment of a CN oil train in three weeks near Gogama. A train with 100 cars, all laden with crude from Alberta bound for eastern Canada, derailed on Feb. 14 about 30 miles north of the town. A total of 29 cars were involved in that incident and seven caught fire, a spokesman said at the time.

Investigators from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada are on site, which is 37 kilometers from the previous accident, agency spokesman John Cottreau said Sunday by phone. The train was headed to Levis, Quebec, when 30 to 40 cars derailed.

“Billions of gallons of oil pass through towns and cities ill-equipped to respond to the kinds of explosions and spills that have been occurring,” according to the Center for Biological Diversity. “Millions of gallons of crude oil have been spilled into waterways.”

EPA: Illinois oil train derailment threatens Mississippi River

Repost from McClatchy DC News
[Editor: In addition to breaking news about the EPA’s order of “imminent and substantial danger,” this article is an excellent summary of five recent hazmat derailments in as many weeks.  – RS]

EPA: Illinois oil train derailment threatens Mississippi River

By Curtis Tate, McClatchy Washington Bureau, March 7, 2015
Oil Train Derailment Illinois
Smoke and flames erupt when a train derailed Thursday, March 5, 2015, near where the Galena River meets the Mississippi in Illinois. On Saturday, March 7, the Environmental Protection Agency said the spill posed an environmental threat to the region. MIKE BURLEY — AP/Telegraph Herald

— An oil train derailment and spill in northwest Illinois poses an “imminent and substantial danger” of contaminating the Mississippi River, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Saturday.

The spill from the derailment, which occurred Thursday, also threatens the Galena River, a tributary of the Mississippi, and the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, one of the most complex ecosystems in North America.

The EPA said it couldn’t estimate how much oil was spilled, but that the 21 cars of the 105-car BNSF Railway train that derailed contained 630,000 gallons of Bakken crude from North Dakota. Small fires from the wreckage continued to burn Saturday.

Earlier Saturday, another oil train derailed and caught fire near Gogama, Ontario, bringing to five the total number of fiery derailments in the U.S. and Canada in as many weeks.

The safety of trains carrying flammable materials has become an issue as the introduction of new drilling technology has allowed the development of crude oil deposits far from traditional pipelines, particularly in the so-called Bakken formation in North Dakota. Rail has become the preferred way to transport that crude to refineries, with railroads moving about 500,000 carloads of oil last year, according to industry estimates, up from 9,500 in 2008. One tank car holds 30,000 gallons.

But recent derailments have cast doubt on the effectiveness of safety efforts and suggest that no tank car currently in service on the North American rail system is tough enough to resist damage in relatively low-speed derailments.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, which is investigating the Illinois derailment, the train was traveling at just 23 miles per hour when it left the tracks, well below the maximum speed allowed. The damaged tank cars were newer CPC-1232 tank cars, which are supposed to be safer than previous ones, but have failed in at least four derailments this year and at least two in 2014.

Saturday’s derailment of a Canadian National Railway train took place about 23 miles from where another oil train derailed on the same rail line three weeks ago. The railroad said on Twitter Saturday afternoon that five cars were in a local waterway, some of them on fire. About 264,000 gallons of oil were released in the Feb. 14 derailment. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is investigating both accidents.

The Illinois derailment is the second in three weeks on U.S. rails. On Feb. 16, 28 cars of a 107-car CSX train derailed in Mount Carbon, W.Va., and 19 caught fire. One house was destroyed and more than 100 residents were evacuated for four days. Many residents and first responders witnessed columns of fire rising hundreds of feet in the air as several of the tank cars ruptured from heat exposure.

A Canadian Pacific train carrying ethanol derailed on Feb. 4 along the Upper Mississippi north of Dubuque, Iowa. The EPA estimates about 55,000 gallons spilled, some of which burned and some of which was recovered from the icy river.

In a statement Saturday, BNSF said a temporary road was being built to the Illinois site, about four miles south of Galena, to help extinguish remaining fires and remove damaged cars. The railroad said it “sincerely regrets” the impact of the derailment.

“Protection of the communities we serve, the safety of our employees and protection of the environment are our highest priorities,” the railroad said.

The role of the newer CPC-1232 tank cars in recent derailments and fires raises new worries about the risk shipments of oil pose to the cities and towns through which they travel. The rail industry adopted the CPC-1232 tank cars as standard in 2011 for oil shipments, saying they were an improvement over the DOT-111 tank car, which had been in use for decades to haul a variety of commodities, including ethanol and crude.

But in spite of special reinforcement of exposed areas, the new cars are still prone to spilling their contents, even at relatively low speeds.

On Jan. 30, the U.S. Department of Transportation sent new regulations for oil and ethanol trains to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review. The rule-making package is expected to include a new tank car design that exceeds the CPC-1232 standard.

According to the department’s February report on significant rule-makings, the final rule is scheduled for publication on May 12.


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.

Latest derailment: Train carrying propane derails in northern Ontario

Repost from The Canadian Press

Train carrying propane derails near Nipigon in northern Ontario

January 13, 2015
CP Railway
Canadian Pacific Railway locomotives move cars at a railyard in Calgary, in a May 16, 2012 photo. (Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

NIPIGON, Ont. — Canadian Pacific says a train carrying propane has derailed in northern Ontario.

Police say the derailment occurred Tuesday morning approximately 45 kilometres east of Nipigon.

A Canadian Pacific Railway derailment crew, CP police and local fire and rescue workers are at the scene.

A railway spokesman said seven cars were carrying propane and there is a “minor leak” from one of the cars.

No injuries have been reported after 22 cars derailed.

Police say a hazmat unit from CP Rail will assess the site before cleanup can commence, and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says it’s deploying a team of investigators.

Officers have set up a perimeter around the affected area, and Highway 17 from Nipigon to Schreiber is expected to be closed until around noon on Wednesday.