Category Archives: CPC-1232 standard

Ethanol dependent on old-style tank cars

Repost from Argus

Railway Supply Institute: Ethanol dependent on old-style tank cars

1 Aug 2014

Houston  — The US ethanol industry is particularly vulnerable to pending regulatory changes that will require retrofitting or retiring a type of railcar that carries 98pc of ethanol production.

In comments to the US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) planned changes to tank car design released last week, the Railway Supply Institute (RSI) said about 29,200 of the approximately 29,780 tank cars moving ethanol as of June were doing so in unjacketed old-style DOT-111 tank cars. Those cars must be retrofitted or retired under the proposed rules.

Jackets add another layer of steel to the tank, increasing overall protection. They are an option to retrofit DOT-111s to make them safer.

DOT-111 cars have been under renewed scrutiny since several exploded into flames in a July 2013 derailment at Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people. Four more fiery crude-by-rail accidents since then spun regulators in both the US and Canada into action on car design.

But it was an ethanol train derailment in June 2009 that spurred the first wave of action. The Cherry Valley, Illinois, accident killed one person and prompted industry to voluntarily strengthen car design in 2011, creating the current industry standard known as CPC-1232.

But despite the reliance on older DOT-111s to move ethanol, documentation from the Surface Transportation Board and the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration shows there was only one ethanol-by-rail accident last year — with no release or fire — compared with five crude-by-rail accidents.

The last reported US ethanol-by-rail accident involving a fire was in August 2012 at Plevna, Montana, when 17 cars derailed and 12 spilled more than 245,000 USG.

According to RSI’s comments to the DOT, which were released last week along with a series of proposals on new speed limits and tank car design for flammable liquids, 580 tank cars either of the newer CPC-1232 model or jacketed DOT-111s were moving ethanol in June, making up 2pc of the fleet.

Meanwhile, of the 42,550 tank cars moving crude in June, 19,750 either were newer-model CPC-1232 or DOT-111 with jacketing, accounting for 46pc.

“Our industry’s rapid expansion occurred in 2005-2006-2007, and the only cars made available were the [DOT-111] cars, which were purchased or leased with the expectation of a 40- or 50-year lifespan,” Bob Dinneen, chief executive of the Renewable Fuels Association, told Argus. “When you started to see a lot more crude oil moving from the Bakken, by then the [CPC-1232] cars were being made available, so they were lucky to get those cars.”

DOT last week suggested that DOT-111 tank cars be retired after two years, to be replaced either by a more stringent design it has proposed, another proposed by the Association of American Railroads that is largely similar except that it lacks electronically controlled pneumatic brakes, or continuation of the current CPC-1232 design.

The initial regulatory push is too broad-brush and should be more focused on crude, Dinneen said.

“They ought to be prioritizing by the commodity about which, by their own admission, they are most concerned,” Dinneen said, referring to light crude. Conversely, the American Petroleum Institute chastised the government for singling out Bakken crude, which it said is no more volatile than other grades.

Yesterday, railcar lessor GATX also called for a more commodity-based approach to the DOT-111 phase-out, saying it is not currently clear what markets DOT-111s might serve once they are banned from crude or ethanol use.

SF Chronicle: ‘Positive Train Control’ System can prevent train accidents, rail industry slow to adopt

Repost from The San Francisco Chronicle
[Editor:  (apologies for the commercial content…the video that follows the commercial is well worth the wait.)  The following San Francisco Chronicle article on Positive Train Control is incredibly important.  Until California is fully covered by a state-of-the-art collision-avoidance system, Valero should not be issued a use permit for crude by rail.  Significant quote from the article: “In the four-plus decades since the federal safety board began urging that the technology be installed, 139 crashes that could have been prevented with collision-avoidance systems have occurred on U.S. rail lines, resulting in 288 deaths and 6,500 injuries, according to internal records of the safety agency examined by Hearst Newspapers.”  – RS]

System can prevent train accidents, rail industry slow to adopt

New technology prevents accidents, but rail industry is dragging its feet
Bill Lambrecht, July 27, 2014
Jake Miille/Special to The Chronicle | A procession of tanker cars transporting Bakken crude oil travels on a railroad line near James (Butte County).

Faced with a huge increase in hazardous oil-carrying trains, California is urging quicker implementation of technology that would prevent train accidents caused by human error. But after pushing back against the idea for nearly half a century, the rail industry is far from ready to adopt the safety measure.

The technology monitors and controls train movements with a digital communications network that links locomotives with control centers. It’s designed to prevent collisions by automatically slowing or stopping errant trains that are going too fast, miss stop signals, enter zones with maintenance workers on the track or encounter other dangers.

Yet 45 years after the National Transportation Safety Board first recommended such a system, the technology, known as positive train control or PTC, operates only on a tiny slice of America’s rail network – including a segment of the Metrolink commuter rail line in Southern California, which has become a leader in adopting the technology after a crash near Chatsworth (Los Angeles County) killed 25 people and injured 102 in 2008. It is also coming soon to Caltrain in the South Bay and on the Peninsula.

In the four-plus decades since the federal safety board began urging that the technology be installed, 139 crashes that could have been prevented with collision-avoidance systems have occurred on U.S. rail lines, resulting in 288 deaths and 6,500 injuries, according to internal records of the safety agency examined by Hearst Newspapers.

During that time, the safety agency issued 75 PTC-related recommendations – formal advice to the industry and its federal regulator that has grown increasingly strident.

Railroad resistance

But the Hearst investigation found that even after early successes with the technology, its development has met continuous resistance from railroads unwilling to sacrifice profits for the safety that the system would provide.

The Federal Railroad Administration, charged with regulating the U.S. rail system, has frequently defied the safety board’s recommendations to install PTC. At times, it has joined with industry to push back against implementation.

Finally, shortly after the Chatsworth accident, in which one of the engineers was distracted while texting, Congress passed legislation mandating the installation of the control system on key portions of the nation’s rail network by the end of 2015.

Caltrain and Metrolink are among the few commuter lines in the country that say they expect to meet that deadline. But rising concern about trains hauling crude in the North American oil boom has put California at odds with the federal government about the pace of PTC and railroad safety in general.

Ten derailments

Since last year, 10 oil trains have derailed in the U.S. and Canada, including the catastrophic wreck a year ago in Quebec that killed 47 people in the small town of Lac-Mégantic.

The amount of oil arriving into California by rail jumped last year by 506 percent to 6.3 million barrels, a state interagency working group on rail safety reported last month.

The report predicted that by 2016, the amount of crude oil coming to California by train could increase by 150 million barrels if California’s five major refineries operate at capacity.

California recently learned that a Burlington Northern Santa Fe crude-carrying train is making weekly runs through the Feather River Canyon, into downtown Sacramento and south to Stockton, before ending up at the Tesoro refinery outside Martinez.

State officials are raising an array of concerns with the federal government about the sluggishness of implementation of the safety measures.

Congress and the Federal Railroad Administration are proposing delays in PTC deadlines, but the report last month from nine California agencies recommended just the opposite: accelerating the installation.

Heading off disaster

“We’re trying to do something before an accident happens instead of looking at a catastrophe and figure out how it could have been prevented,” said Kelly Huston, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. “A train with better technology to prevent it colliding with another train is safer than a train that doesn’t have that technology.”

Metrolink began running the collision-avoidance technology earlier this year on the line that runs from Los Angeles to Riverside.

“Our biggest challenge has been the fact that we’re out front as much as we are, so we’re the ones experiencing the bugs,” said Metrolink spokesman Jeff Lustgarten.

“The deadline was seven years out,” he added. “It wasn’t as if it were an unreasonable deadline.”

Caltrain is installing its $231 million safety system along the San Francisco-to-Gilroy line.

The Government Accountability Office and rail safety advocates have questioned whether the Federal Railroad Administration is prepared for the inspections and approvals for PTC. Caltrain echoes those concerns.

“I think they will be challenged from a resource point of view to get this done, and it seems likely that that is going to be a constraint on all of us,” said Karen Antion, a consultant who is directing Caltrain’s transition to the system.

Human factor

The collision-avoidance technology is designed to minimize the number of train disasters caused by human error, the cause of roughly 40 percent of derailments.

In the 1980s, Burlington Northern, plagued by a series of fatal accidents, was the first to act on a recommendation that the National Transportation Safety Board had issued nearly two decades before, calling on railroads to adopt an avoidance system. The railroad’s technology plotted the speed and positions of trains within 30 feet. If trains got too close and an engineer didn’t slow after warnings flashed on a locomotive computer screen, the system took over.

It became more than an experiment: For five years, Burlington Northern’s system operated on 17 locomotives on 300 miles of tracks in Minnesota. There were no accidents.

“All of the components worked as expected,” said Steven Ditmeyer, who was Burlington Northern’s research director at the time. “We had acceptance by train crews, dispatchers and maintenance people. There was no fear of the system and people could see its benefits.”

Momentum lost

The federal safety board soon turned up the heat, advising the Federal Railroad Administration in the early 1990s to establish a “firm timetable” for installing train control along America’s tracks.

But the opposite occurred. The 1990s were a time of upheaval in the industry, with mergers set in motion by deregulation. Amid the reorganizing and subsequent cost-cutting, railroads lost interest in train control.

In 1993, the Association of American Railroads prepared a 91-page study that laid out a case for benefits of the technology beyond avoiding wrecks: savings in fuel and labor costs, better traffic control, a means to monitor the condition of locomotives and “a better-rested and safer workforce.”

But rather than use the study to rally its members, the leaders of the railroad trade group ordered the study destroyed. The railroad association argued in 1995 that the new technology “must be justified on the basis of safety benefits only.”

The Federal Railroad Administration went along with what the industry wanted. Ditmeyer headed the agency’s Office of Research and Development after being deeply involved with the Burlington Northern project. In 1996, he testified at a congressional hearing that technical issues with the system still needed to be addressed.

In a recent interview, Ditmeyer recalled that testimony as “one of the things I regret most in my life. … I was forced to say it was not ready to implement.”

Congress acts

After 9/11, the railroads’ focus shifted to protecting against terrorist attacks, and collision-avoidance technology was pushed even further down the priority list.

Finally, after the Chatsworth crash, Congress passed a measure requiring implementation of PTC and President George W. Bush signed it into law. But the delays were far from over.

In 2010, the Association of American Railroads filed suit challenging federal rules for installing the new technology, arguing that “while the costs of PTC are tremendous, the benefits are relatively few.” Four years later, the suit drags on.

Michael Rush, associate general counsel of the Association of American Railroads, said his members are committed to the technology, but that key components are still in a developmental stage.

“It is a work in progress. We’re trying to do something that’s not been done before,” he said.

In the run-up to the 2015 deadline, Americans don’t have the opportunity to measure progress in installing the technology. The federal railroad agency rejected a National Transportation Safety Board recommendation to post railroads’ updates online.

“To publish this information would likely mislead and confuse the public,” agency administrator Joseph Szabo said in a letter, adding that it would “waste valuable agency resources.”

Robert Sumwalt, a member of the federal safety board, said in an interview that the railroad agency’s “response to this was, frankly, appalling.”

Drop in accidents

The railroad agency defends its safety record, pointing to a 50 percent drop in rail accidents over the past decade. The agency also touts a voluntary agreement that went into effect July 1 under which oil trains reduce speed in urban areas and take pains to identify routes with the fewest risks.

The Federal Railroad Administration favors a plan to deal with railroads’ plans to install the safety system incrementally, not setting any overall deadline. Testifying at a Senate hearing this spring, Szabo said the open-ended plan would set milestones for individual railroads and “achieve the benefit of PTC as much as possible as soon as possible.”

Other proposals in Congress would delay the technology beyond 2015.

“Pure trouble” is how Grady Cothen, the agency’s former associate administrator for safety, sums up the agency’s open-ended deadline proposal. “There is a place for FRA discretion, but there has to be a framework,” he said.

Sumwalt said he and other federal safety board members “were feeling good” after Congress ordered the collision-avoidance technology six years ago.

“And now we’re finding that it’s going to be delayed even further,” he said. “It’s frustrating to see accidents continue to happen that we know PTC would have prevented.”

This story has been corrected since it appeared in print editions.

Bill Lambrecht is a reporter in the Hearst Newspapers Washington bureau.

New DOT crude-by-rail rules could cost $2.6 – $6 billion

Repost from
[Editor: Significant quote: “An estimated 59% of all crude produced in North Dakota left by rail, according to state figures.  It is too soon say to say whether or not the new DOT rules could impact Bakken output, the state’s director of the Department of Mineral Resources Lynn Helms said.”  – RS]

New DOT crude-by-rail rules could cost $2.6bn-$6bn

24 Jul 2014

Houston, 24 July (Argus) — The Department of Transportation’s proposed rules to overhaul tank cars transporting crude and ethanol could cost $2.6bn-$6bn to implement, according to the agency’s analysis.

The cost estimates are based on various combinations of the proposed speed limitations and rail car specifications, calculated over a 20-year period. The least expensive combination, at $2.6bn, would pair newer-model jacketed CPC-1232 cars and train limits of 40mph in designated high-threat urban areas. The most expensive solution, at $6bn, would be to pair cars with a design standard proposed by DOT and a system-wide train speed limit of 40mph.

Without the new rules, DOT agency the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) expects about 15 mainline derailments to occur in 2015, falling to about five per year by 2034. The US could also experience over the next 20 years an additional 10 safety events of higher consequence, with nine having environmental damages and injury and fatality costs exceeding $1.15bn each, the DOT predicts. One future accident over the next 20 years would cost over $5.75bn.

Under the proposed rules, DOT-111 tank cars would no longer be allowed to move crude and ethanol. The cars have been proven to have insufficient puncture resistance, weak bottom outlet valves in accidents and vulnerability in fire and rollover accidents, the DOT said.

Thousands of tank cars used to carry crude and ethanol would be removed from service within two years unless they are retrofit to comply with new design standards under the proposal announced yesterday. The phase-out program would be faster than the three-year program adopted by the Canadian government earlier this year.

The proposed changes range widely in cost. Voluntary rail routing would cost $5.5mn to implement, while new materials classification rules could cost $16.2mn. The three proposed tank car retrofit options would cost $2.5-3mn to implement, and yield benefits estimated to be worth $432.5mn-$3.5bn. The least expensive of the speed restrictions, 40mph in high-threat urban areas, would cost only $27.4mn to implement, while 40mph in areas with 100,000 people would cost $260mn to implement. The most expensive by far would be the $2.9mn implementation of a 40mph speed limit for ethanol and crude trains in all areas.

Retrofit costs for tank cars could cost anywhere from $1,200 for a bottom outlet valve handle to $23,000 for a full jacket to be added to the car.

The DOT estimates a total of 334,869 tank cars are in service, with 42,550 in crude service and 29,708 in ethanol service. Of existing tank cars used to haul crude, 22,800 are non-jacketed DOT-111s, 5,500 are jacketed DOT-111s. There are an estimated 4,850 of the newer model jacketed CPC-1232 cars and 9,400 non-jacketed CPC 1232 cars in crude service.

New cars may have to be built with thicker outer shells and equipped with electronically controlled pneumatic braking systems and rollover protection. Cars built in accordance with design rules voluntarily adopted by the industry in 2011 may have to be retrofit, depending on the standards DOT ultimately settles on.

The agency also is considering three speed limits for crude trains that contain tank cars not built up to the new standards. The first would require a 40mph speed limit across the network, the second a 40mph speed limit in high-threat urban areas and the third a 40mph speed limit in areas with a population of 100,000 or more. Cars built in accordance with DOT’s new design standards will be allowed to operate at 50mph in all areas.

The rules further would require shippers show a rigid written sampling and testing program for mined liquid and gases is in place and make information available to DOT on request.

The rulemaking package is now open for a 60-day public comment period. DOT is requesting feedback on three options for enhancing tank car standards.

An estimated 59pc of all crude produced in North Dakota left by rail, according to state figures. It is too soon say to say whether or not the new DOT rules could impact Bakken output, the state’s director of the Department of Mineral Resources Lynn Helms said.

Stopping deadly oil train fires: New rules planned

Repost from The Sacramento Bee (Wire Business News, AP)

Stopping deadly oil train fires: New rules planned

The Associated Press, Jul. 23, 2014
Oil Train Fires
FILE – This Nov. 6, 2013, file photo shows a BNSF Railway train hauling crude oil near Wolf Point, Mont. Thousands of older rail tank cars that carry crude oil would be phased out within two years under regulations proposed in response to a series of fiery train crashes over the past year. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the government’s testing of crude oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana shows the oil is on the high end of a range of volatility compared with other crude oils, meaning it’s more likely to ignite if spilled. Matthew Brown, File / AP Photo

Responding to a series of fiery train crashes, the government proposed rules Wednesday that would phase out tens of thousands of older tank cars that carry increasing quantities of crude oil and other highly flammable liquids through America’s towns and cities.

But many details were put off until later as regulators struggle to balance safety against the economic benefits of a fracking boom that has sharply increased U.S. oil production. Among the issues: What type of tank cars will replace those being phased out, how fast will they be allowed to travel and what kind of braking systems will they need?

Accident investigators have complained for decades that older tank cars, known as DOT-111s, are too easily punctured or ruptured, spilling their contents when derailed. Since 2008, there have been 10 significant derailments in the U.S. and Canada in which crude oil has spilled from ruptured tank cars, often igniting and resulting in huge fireballs. The worst was a runaway oil train that exploded in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic a year ago, killing 47 people.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said he said he expects his department to complete final regulations before the end of the year. First, the public and affected industries will have an opportunity to comment on the proposal.

“We are at the dawn of a promising time for energy production in this country,” Foxx said. “This is a positive development for our economy and for energy independence, but the responsibilities attached to this production are very serious.”

In a report released along with the rules, the Department of Transportation concluded that oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana, where fracking methods have created an oil boom, is more volatile than is typical for light, sweet crudes.

The oil industry immediately challenged that conclusion. “The best science and data do not support recent speculation that crude oil from the Bakken presents greater than normal transportation risks,” said American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard. “DOT needs to get this right and make sure that its regulations are grounded in facts and sound science, not speculation.”

Rail shipments of crude have skyrocketed from a few thousand carloads a decade ago to 434,000 carloads last year. The Bakken now produces over 1 million barrels per day, and production is increasing.

The phase-in period for replacing or retrofitting older tank cars that transport the most volatile types of liquids is shorter than the Canadian government’s three-year phased plan. Congress, fearing another Lac-Megantic, has been pressuring regulators to put new safety rules in place as quickly as possible.

The proposal also includes ethanol, which is transported in the same kind of tank cars. From 2006 to 2012, there were seven train derailments in which tank cars carrying ethanol ruptured. Several crashes caused spectacular fires that emergency responders were powerless to put out.

The proposed regulations apply only to trains of 20 or more cars. Crude oil trains from the Bakken are typically 100 cars or more.

The department is weighing three options for replacements. One would be to make cars known as “1232s” the new standard for transporting hazardous liquids. Those cars are a stronger design voluntarily agreed to by the railroad, oil and ethanol industries in 2011. But those cars, which have been in use for several years, have also ruptured in several accidents.

The oil and ethanol industries have been urging White House and transportation officials to retain the 1232 design for new cars. The industries have billions of dollars invested in tens of thousands of tank cars that officials say were purchased with the expectation they would last for decades.

Another option is a design proposed by Association of American Railroads that has a thicker shell, an outer layer to protect from heat exposure, a “jacket” on top of that, and a better venting valve, among other changes. A third design proposed by the department is nearly identical to the one proposed by railroads, but it also has stronger fittings on the top of the car to prevent spillage during a rollover accident at a speed of 9 mph.

Regulators also are weighing whether to limit crude and ethanol trains to a maximum of 40 mph throughout the country, or just in “high-threat” urban areas or areas with populations greater than 100,000 people. A high-threat urban area is usually one or more cities surrounded by a 10-mile buffer zone.

Railroads had already voluntarily agreed to reduce oil train speeds to 40 mph in urban areas beginning July 1. Tank cars — including the newer ones built to a tougher safety standard — have ruptured in several accidents at speeds below 30 mph. Regulators said they’re considering lowering the speed limit to 30 mph for trains that aren’t equipped with advanced braking systems.

The freight railroad industry had met privately with department and White House officials to lobby for keeping the speed limit at 40 mph in urban areas rather than lowering it. Railroad officials say a 30 mph limit would tie up traffic across the country because other freight wouldn’t be able to get past slower oil and ethanol trains.

The department said it is considering three types of braking systems for oil and ethanol trains, but a final decision will depend on what type of tank car design is eventually adopted.

Whatever option regulators settle on, the proposal calls for newly manufactured cars to meet that standard beginning Oct. 1, 2015.

The proposal continues a requirement that railroads transporting at least 1 million gallons of Bakken crude oil notify emergency response commissions ahead of time in states they pass through. Communities from upstate New York to the coast of Washington have complained they’re in the dark about when trains pass through and how much oil and ethanol they’re transporting.