Category Archives: Rail tanker cars

Prediction: U.S. will ban older rail cars for oil in 3-5 years

Repost from Reuters (also appearing in Insurance Journal)

CN Rail sees U.S. banning older rail cars for oil in 3-5 years

By Rod Nickel  |  May 29, 2014

Canadian National Railway Chief Executive Claude Mongeau said on Thursday he expects U.S. regulators to phase out use of DOT-111 tank cars in three to five years, following a deadly explosion in Quebec last year.

Mongeau also expects U.S. authorities to decide no later than early 2015 on a new, safer design for cars to transport crude oil, he said in an interview.

“Canada has already spoken; all these older legacy DOT-111 cars have to be phased out of flammable service (there) in the next three years,” Mongeau said, speaking at a Sanford Bernstein conference in New York. “I think the U.S. will follow suit, three years, five years who knows? That’s the range I think.”

Canada will require that older rail cars used for carrying crude oil be phased out by May 2017, the government said in April, moving ahead of the United States to ban the controversial cars in light of burgeoning oil-by-rail traffic

The transport of oil by rail is rising due to fracking in North Dakota and drilling in Alberta’s oil sands. Oil train cargoes have been under scrutiny since a shipment derailed in Lac Megantic, Quebec, last July, killing 47 people in an explosion.

The type of cars that derailed there are known as DOT-111 cars, and are seen as being vulnerable to puncturing and leakage.

The Association of American Railroads has made several recommendations for the new cars, including thicker, stronger steel, but shippers, leasing companies and manufacturers have their own views too, Mongeau said.

“There’s broad agreement that we need a new tank car design for the future,” he said. “There’s not agreement on every detail and that’s what the rule-making (process) needs to review and make a decision on from a government standpoint.”

CN transported approximately 73,000 carloads of crude oil in 2013 across its North American network, more than double the previous year’s carloads, but still only 1.4 percent of its total freight carloadings. It expects to double its crude oil carload volumes again by 2015.

Since October 2011, new oil tank cars have been built to a higher standard, known as CPC 1232. The CPC 1232 standard will be the minimum requirement in Canada three years from now.

In the U.S., that standard is not yet regulation, but new cars are already being built to that design, Mongeau said. The Association of American Railroads has said it would like to see a new standard of railcar for oil service with safety features exceeding the 1232.

BNSF Railway Co said in March that production could start in January on the first batch of 5,000 next-generation tank cars designed to carry crude oil more safely.

Even so, the older DOT-111 cars have several years of service remaining, despite their perceived flaws.

“It’s a risk management process,” Mongeau said. “We have used these cars for many, many years in flammable service.”

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; additional reporting by Josh Schneyer in New York; Editing by Franklin Paul and Marguerita Choy)

Expert Presentations: Oil Spill Prevention & Response Forum, Vallejo, CA

Powerpoint Presentations from the Oil Spill Prevention & Response Forum, Vallejo 16May2014:

1. Ernie Sirotek – Petroleum Crude by Rail
2. Gordon Schremp – OSPR Meeting Vallejo – CEC Final 5-6-14 GDS
3. Neil Gambow – New Regulations for Tank Car Construction
4. Joy Lavin-Jones Regs PP
5. Ed Hughlett – Casualty Lessons Learned CMA 2014
6. Lexia Littlejohn – First 96 Hours.CMA Presentation.Littlejohn
7. M Thomas OSPR Regulatory Overview
8. Nicole Stewart Spill Prevention and Response Day – KM
9. Geoffrey Ashton – LNG in NA safe bunkering procedures

Firefighters get specialized training to fight crude oil tank car fires

Repost from The Albany Times Union [Editor: We can expect that this kind of training is being initiated all across North America, given the proliferation of derailments and explosions.  Has the Benicia Fire Department sought training?  Other Bay Area fire departments?  How about a regional training event?  – RS]

Firefighters train as crude oil surges through Albany port

Controlled blaze gives firefighters practice for a real oil event at port
By Brian Nearing  |  May 8, 2014
An instructor, right, leads firefighter trainees during a live fire training drill on best practices for the suppression of ignitable liquids such as crude oil in the event of a flammable liquid emergency at the Port of Albany Wednesday May 7, 2014, in Albany, NY.  (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union) Photo: John Carl D'Annibale / 00026798AAn instructor, right, leads firefighter trainees during a live fire training drill on best practices for the suppression of ignitable liquids such as crude oil in the event of a flammable liquid emergency at the Port of Albany Wednesday May 7, 2014, in Albany, NY. (John Carl D’Annibale / Times Union)

To practice fighting towering flames that could erupt should crude oil-laden trains ever derail and explode, firefighters in the Port of Albany on Wednesday practiced on controlled blazes created on something not unlike a giant barbecue grill.

In a parking lot off South Pearl Street, about two dozen firefighters spent several hours dragging hoses to spray special foam on fires fueled by propane lines from a tank truck parked nearby, and that burned both in vapors bubbling in a water-filled pan on the ground and from a valve atop an adapted tractor-trailer.

Flames would shoot up, teams of firefighters would creep up to spray foam, flames would be extinguished and then the next team would repeat the exercise.

The state Division of Homeland Security ran the two-day drill, which is part of routine training done statewide for local fire departments and companies with their own firefighting crews, said James Cable, chief of the division’s Special Operations Branch.

Later Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued an emergency order requiring all railroads operating trains hauling large loads of highly flammable Bakken crude oil — like those into Albany’s port — to notify state emergency response officials about routes and operation of rail traffic through their states.

The rule requires rail companies that have trains containing more than one million gallons of North Dakota Bakken crude — equivalent to about 35 tanker cars — to notify state officials on the routes of those trains.

Also the rules asks oil shippers to phase out use of the oldest, least-safe tankers, known as DOT-111s, as soon as is practical, without setting any deadline.

Applauded by U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer, who last week called for such notification, and Kirsten Gillibrand, the federal announcement came after the local safety drill was finished. Before the drill, Albany Deputy Fire Chief Frank Nerney Jr. called the drill “an extension of our regular training to understand the use of foams to fight flammable liquids. We take part in this drill twice a year.”

Nerney said training has focused on crews at the South End firehouse, which is closest to the Port of Albany, where trains carrying Bakken crude oil are arriving daily. Crude shipments have skyrocketed in the last two years. Derailments and massive fires in Virginia, North Dakota, Alabama and Quebec in the last year have raised mounting safety concerns.

In some of the infernos, flames were up to 200 feet high. Wednesday’s flames were much smaller, appearing to shoot five feet from the water-filled pan and 20 or 30 feet from the tractor trailer. Crews wearing protective clothing were able to walk within a few feet of the flames, which were still hot enough to be felt by reporters standing back about 40 yards.

New recruits from the Albany department, as well as its five battalion chiefs, took part in the drill, as well as members from fire departments from Schuyler Heights, Maplewood and Schenectady and the SABIC chemical plant in Glenmont.

Cable said the principles of the propane-based training system apply to crude oil fires or other “ignitable liquids.” The chemical foam is mixed with water under pressure, and the foam is sprayed over a fire. It acts like a blanket, sealing off the surface of the burning liquid from air, which extinguishes the blaze. The foam is consumed gradually by fire, and so must be applied enough to create a barrier; otherwise, gaps will allow air to continue to feed the blaze.

The state has run the training course for local departments for three years, said Cable. “We are looking to increase this training, as more communities are asking for it.”

KQED video: panel discusses crude by rail in the Bay Area

Repost from KQED Newsroom (via Youtube)
[Editor: Note that the oil-by-rail portion of this video begins at 1:00 and goes to 11:00.  – RS]

Concerns Over Crude by Rail

May 2, 2014

Proposals to transport crude oil on railroads throughout Northern California are fueling worries about health and safety. Just this week, a train carrying oil derailed in Virginia, sending a huge fireball into the air and forcing evacuations. Locally, many officials and residents from Davis to Pittsburg are opposed to plans to increase crude oil rail shipments.

•Molly Samuel, KQED Science
•Yvonne Addassi, CA Office of Spill Prevention & Response
•Tom Vacar, KTVU News