Category Archives: CPC-1232 standard

Debate: thickness of the steel walls of tank cars

Repost from International Business Times
[Editor: Important report, please read.  – RS]

Oil Industry And Railroads Shipping Shale Boom Riches Are Separated By Just An Eighth Of An Inch

By Meagan Clark  |  April 29 2014
Coal railcars Wyoming by Shutterstock Coal railcars in Wyoming  |

Energy companies and the firms that make the rail cars carrying the flow of crude oil and other products from America’s shale boom are separated by a mere 1/8 of an inch.

That’s the added thickness in the walls of the steel rail cars that the manufacturers say is needed to achieve safe standards. The oil and gas industry argues that the current 7/16 of an inch thickness is adequate.

The debate is important because the U.S. is currently hammering out guidelines that will eventually set the new national standards for transporting hazardous cargo by rail.

The standards for tank cars have made national headlines after several fiery derailments of trains carrying crude in the past year, some near homes.

After several congressional hearings,  the Department of Transportation (DOT) is expected to propose a new set of rules this week for White House review, including “options for enhancing tank car standards,” Anthony Foxx, transportation secretary, blogged for DOT on Thursday. Foxx was visiting Casselton, North Dakota, the site of an explosive train derailment and 400,000-gallon crude spill late last year that managed to not injure anyone.

The White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) will review the DOT’s proposal. The turnaround usually takes about three months, but could take longer since the regulation in dispute is controversial and costly. The public will have a chance to submit comments before the final rules are set.

“We look forward to working collaboratively with OIRA on the Administration’s proposal and initiating the formal comment process as soon as possible,” Foxx said in the blog post.

The current regulation DOT-111 has been the federal standard for oil-by-rail shipping for more than a decade, and nearly all parties involved in the trade agree it needs updating.  Some officials claim the crude from the Bakken Shale formation in Wyoming and North Dakota is more volatile and dangerous than other domestic crude oil.

Rail operators, oil producers and tank car manufacturers have argued without resolve for months on what the best dimensions would be to transport crude.

The American Petroleum Institute claims that the current a 7/16th inch-thick steel frame is adequate for crude shipments, while the Association of American Railroads, the rail industry’s lead representative, proposes a thicker 9/16th inch frame.

The thicker tank not only would cost the companies more to buy; it also holds less crude, which adds to shipping costs.

A 7/16th inch model called the CPC-1232 has been a voluntary industry standard since 2011, and factories have sold many of the tank cars in recent years to transport crude. AAR introduced the standard after several DOT-111 derailments, but now recommends phasing out or retrofitting the older models for a minimum 9/16th inch-thick tank.

AAR estimates its proposal would phase out or retrofit about 92,000 cars built since 2011 that meet the current standard. Retrofitting the whole existing fleet of current-standard cars carrying flammable liquids would be more than $3 billion, according to the rail group.

Once the rules are final, rail companies will have to decide whether to upgrade their existing fleet or wait for tanks to be built to the new standard.

North America’s oil boom has increased rail transport of crude from 9,500 carloads a year in 2008 to 400,000 carloads last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Association. The more oil riding the rails, the more likely spills and accidents are to occur. Only 0.0023 percent of hazardous material carloads spill or crash, according to the Association of American Railroads and the American Shortline and Regional Railroad Association. But that small percentage of accidents gets a lot of attention.

Outgoing chair of NTSB: U.S. not prepared, not enough NTSB investigators

Repost from Bloomberg News

Communities Not Prepared for Worst-Case Rail Accidents: NTSB

By Patrick Ambrosio Apr 22, 2014 7:38 AM

Bloomberg BNA — Deborah Hersman, the outgoing chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said April 21 that U.S. communities are not prepared to respond adequately to worst-case accidents involving trains carrying crude oil and ethanol.

Answering questions following her farewell address at the National Press Club in Washington, Hersman said U.S. regulators are behind the curve in addressing the transport of hazardous liquids by rail. She said federal regulations have not been revised to address the increase in rail transport of crude oil and other flammable liquids—an increase of over 440 percent since 2005.

Hersman, who is leaving her post at NTSB April 25 to serve as president of the National Safety Council, said the petroleum industry and first responders don’t have provisions in place to address a worst-case scenario event involving a train carrying crude oil or ethanol. She said several catastrophic accidents have involved crude oil, including a July 2013 train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, that resulted in 47 fatalities.

The NTSB, in conjunction with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, identified regulatory steps that could be taken by the Transportation Department to address safety risks, including expanded route planning requirements for crude oil shipments, the addition of a requirement for carriers to develop response plans for incidents involving crude oil shipments and increased audits of shippers and carriers to ensure that hazardous liquids are properly classified.

Hersman said the NTSB scheduled a two-day forum to hear from first responders and the petroleum and rail industries on safety issues. The forum, which will be held on April 22-23 in Washington, will include discussions on tank car design, emergency response to releases of flammable liquids and federal oversight of crude oil and ethanol transport, according to an agenda posted on the NTSB’s website.

Tank Car Safety

When asked about the adequacy of the DOT-111 rail tank car to carry crude oil, Hersman reiterated the NTSB’s position that the tank cars are not safe to carry hazardous liquids.

The NTSB recommended in 2009 that all new and existing tank cars in crude oil and ethanol service be equipped with additional safety design features, including enhanced tank head and shell puncture resistance systems, top fittings protection and bottom outlet valves that remain closed during accidents.

“We have said that they are not safe enough to carry hazardous liquids,” Hersman said about the DOT-111 legacy cars. “Carrying corn oil is fine, carrying crude oil is not.”

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration is working on a proposed rule to update the federal design standards for DOT-111 rail tank cars used to transport hazardous liquids. The consensus among industry and regulators is that new design standards are needed, but there is disagreement over whether the new safety requirements should be more stringent than the CPC-1232 standard, a voluntary industry standard adopted for all new tank cars ordered after Oct. 1, 2011.

Staffing Limitations Said to Delay Work

NTSB staff needs support from Congress to fulfill their mission, Hersman said. At present, she said the NTSB is involved in more than 20 rail accident investigations but only has “about 10 rail investigators.”

“We’re going to have to turn down accidents that occur in the future because we have too much on our plate.”