Category Archives: Empty tank cars

Empty tank cars aren’t so empty

Repost of an email from Matt Krogh, Extreme Oil Campaign, STAND
[See also High Hazardous Flammable train placards to watch for.  – RS]

Empty tank cars and tank car cleaning resources

…here are a couple of government, industry, and expert sources. re the likely volume of crude oil in a given “empty” residue tank car with a hazmat placard:


Heel: the crude oil residue in the bottom and on sides of the tank car

Clabber: consolidated scunge from many uses w/out cleaning

This document for Customs and Border Patrol provides a sample estimate of oil tank cars having 7% heel, or 2,100 gallons for a 30,000 gallon car (p.7):

This document by the American Petroleum Institute explains the different ways they measure heel, and also supports the likelihood of 7% heel. It also contains this statement, which raises concerns about fluctuating vapor pressure and off-gassing: “Classifying and Loading of Crude Oil into Rail Tank Cars”

Crude oil expands and contracts based on changes in temperature. For example, the volume can change by 0.4 % to 0.6 % per 10 °F change depending upon the density. Volume corrections shall be carried out in accordance with API MPMS Ch. 11.1-2004 or API MPMS Ch. 11.5, as appropriate.

This formal filing by Phyllis Fox explains how tank cars vent toxic gas, including residue cars, and why temperature changes can cause tank cars to vent:

DERAILMENT: Train Derails at Port of Tacoma

Repost from KIRO TV, Seattle WA

Oil tank cars derail near Port of Tacoma; no spills or injuries

Righting derailed train could take until midnight

Updated: Apr 22, 2016 – 2:52 PM

TACOMA, Wash — An empty tanker train has derailed at the Port of Tacoma, with 18 cars off the tracks.

The train belongs to Tacoma Rail and all of the tank cars are empty.

Tacoma firefighters at the scene said there were no spills and no one was hurt.

Lincoln is closed at 11th Avenue. It may take until midnight to get the car upright again.

Some businesses have been affected by the scene.


Held up in court for a year, Maryland oil train reports outdated

Repost from McClatchyDC

Held up in court for a year, Maryland oil train reports outdated

By Curtis Tate, September 12, 2015

•  McClatchy received reports it asked for in 2014
•  Documents contained data previously revealed
•  Economics of crude by rail have shifted since

After more than a year, McClatchy finally got the oil train reports it had requested from Maryland.

And they were badly out of date.

Last year, McClatchy filed open-records requests in about 30 states for the documents, and was the first news organization to do so in Maryland, in June 2014.

Maryland was poised to release the records in July 2014, when two railroads, CSX and Norfolk Southern, sued the state Department of the Environment to block the disclosure.

Finally last month, a state judge ruled in the favor of the release, marking the first time a court had affirmed what many other states had already done without getting sued.

The documents McClatchy and other news organizations ultimately received were dated June 2014, not long after the U.S. Department of Transportation began requiring the railroads to notify state officials of shipments of 1 million gallons or more of Bakken crude oil.

After more than a year, however, the economics of shipping crude by rail had changed substantially.

Amid a slump in oil prices, refineries once receiving multiple trainloads of North American crude oil every day have switched, at least temporarily, to waterborne foreign imports.

The trend is reflected from the East Coast to the West Coast, where long strings of surplus tank cars have been parked on lightly used rail lines, generating rental income for small railroads but also the ire of nearby residents.

The documents released in Maryland show that in June 2014, Norfolk Southern was moving as many as 16 oil trains a week through Cecil County on its way to a refinery in Delaware.

But McClatchy has known that since August 2014, when it received a response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Amtrak.

The Delaware News Journal reported that the PBF Refinery in Delaware City, Del., now receives only about 40,000 barrels a day of crude by rail. That’s about 56 loaded tank cars, or half a unit train, nowhere close to the volume of mid-2014.

The June 2014 Maryland documents also show that CSX was moving as many as five oil trains a week on a route from western Maryland through downtown Baltimore toward refineries in Philadelphia.

But that had been clear since at least October 2014, when the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency released its oil train reports showing an identical number of CSX trains crossing from western Pennsylvania into Maryland, then back into southeast Pennsylvania.

CSX told the Baltimore Sun that it had not regularly moved a loaded oil train through Baltimore since the third quarter of 2014. The company had earlier told the newspaper that it moved empty oil trains through the city and state.

Federal regulators never required railroads to report empty oil train movements.

The vast majority of loaded CSX oil trains move to Philadelphia via Cleveland, Buffalo, Albany, N.Y., and northern New Jersey, according to records from Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

Pennsylvania man in good condition after collision with “empty” oil train

Repost from Lancaster Online
[Editor:  I have been asking various oil train experts about the volatility of “empty” crude oil tank cars.  These cars are not truly empty: returning trains of nearly-empty cars are referred to as “residue trains,” and carry the same identifying hazmat placard as when they are full.  Of course, these cars have been known to derail or crash as happened in this report.  I have not been able to find much documentation, but several reports claim that these cars can explode, sending shrapnel and causing major (and presumably relatively short-lived) fires.  Rail and oil insurers are certain to have calculated risk assessments on these cars.  But I have no record of this risk being addressed in permitting reviews.  What additional safety risk is added to a crude-by-rail project being considered for permitting in a city like Benicia?  Please contact me if you have further information, send to rogrmail at gmail dot com.  – RS]

Marietta man, 85, in good condition after collision with oil train

By Tom Knapp, Apr 7, 2015
crash 032715
The wreckage of a pickup truck is shown after a collision March 27 with a northbound oil train. BRIAN LEID

An 85-year-old man is recovering after his pickup truck was struck by an empty oil train March 27 in Bainbridge.

Clark “Red” Arnold, of Marietta, was in critical condition as recently as Friday, but was listed in good condition Tuesday, a spokeswoman at Penn State Hershey Medical Center said.

Arnold was trapped in the truck after he apparently stopped his vehicle in the train’s path.

“He just didn’t hear the train,” Conoy Township supervisor Stephen Mohr said Friday afternoon.

“He and the train got to the intersection at about the same time. When he did see the train, he panicked and stopped on the tracks.”

Mohr, who witnessed the crash, said he had been speaking to Arnold just moments before the accident at the nearby Koser Park Boat launch area.

“You’re helpless,” he said. “I knew it was going to happen before it happened, but there’s nothing you can do.”

The crash occurred at the Race Street crossing at North Front Street.

Emergency crews were called to the scene at 1:29 p.m.

The Norfolk Southern oil train was heading north toward Harrisburg and was not carrying oil at the time of the crash, according to police.

Local, state and federal officials have expressed concerns about explosive Bakken crude oil being transported by train after several recent derailments.

Oil trains, often pulling more than 100 tanker cars, roll through about 35 miles of Lancaster County along the Susquehanna River up to 16 times a week.

Arnold was freed from his truck and taken to Hershey Medical Center for treatment, according to Lt. Stephen Englert of Susquehanna Regional Police.

“It was pretty serious,” Mohr said. “He took a beating. … They had to take the vehicle apart to free him.”

Mohr said Arnold was “conscious and talking to us” while rescue workers freed him from the truck.

There are no crossgates or warning lights at the intersection, Mohr noted.

Witnesses at the scene stated they heard the Norfolk Southern train horn well before the train collided with the vehicle, according to the Susquehanna Regional Police report.

Randy Gockley, director of the Lancaster County Emergency Management Agency, said the train did not derail, and responders on the scene reported no leakage from the train.

The Race Street intersection is the entrance to Bainbridge American Legion Park, which serves as the trailhead for the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail, as well as the location of the Bainbridge Inn.

Englert said the collision does not make him any more concerned about oil trains traveling through Conoy.

Capt. Leonard Crater of Bainbridge Fire Department said the the victim apparently “got a little too close to the tracks, and was unaware of the train coming.”

Onlookers “didn’t think he was trying to beat the train,” Crater said.

He was glad train cars were empty so “there was no kind of worry about any kind of leak or explosions or anything like that.”

The Bainbridge fire captain said nearly 20 firefighters from his department and nearby units responded, along with police.

Penny Rhan of 114 Race St., some 50 yards from the crash, heard a boom but didn’t initially realize it had been a train accident.

Another Race Street resident, Wayne Brooks, said “it’s been a long time since we’ve had an accident there.”

Staff writers David O’Connor and Ryan Robinson contributed to this report.