Safer Shipping Of Oil By Tank Cars | January 13, 2014 Issue - Vol. 92 Issue 2 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 92 Issue 2 | p. 8 | News of The Week
Issue Date: January 13, 2014 | Web Date: January 10, 2014

Safer Shipping Of Oil By Tank Cars

Rail Safety: New York’s Sen. Schumer seeks action on railcars prone to rupture in derailments
Department: Government & Policy
News Channels: Environmental SCENE
Keywords: crude oil, freight rail, tank cars, Charles Schumer

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is calling on the Department of Transportation (DOT) to require shippers to retrofit or phase out a type of rail tank car that is widely used to transport crude oil and other hazardous liquids. The DOT-111 model car has been involved in a spate of fiery derailments over the past six months.

“There are serious safety concerns about the railcars that carry this oil and the risk they pose,” Schumer remarked at a press conference last week. The National Transportation Safety Board and other experts have concluded that DOT-111 tank cars are prone to “tears and spills,” he said.

Railroad industry trade groups have defended rail transport as safe, saying that more than 99% of all oil shipments are delivered without incident.

DOT issued a safety alert on Jan. 3 stating that the light, sweet crude from the Bakken oil patch in North Dakota “may be more flammable” than traditional heavy crudes because it contains more natural gas. The higher volatility of oil from North Dakota is a major concern because rail shipments of crude oil from North Dakota to New York and New Jersey have increased recently, Schumer explained. Also, the volume of oil from this region is expected to increase as refinery expansion projects are completed.

“If one of these cars were to fail, it could result in oil flooding into the Hudson River or Port of New York, sullying our waterways and gumming up our economy, or potentially even a major, deadly explosion,” Schumer said.

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James Noyce (January 14, 2014 10:33 PM)
"Railroad industry trade groups have defended rail transport as safe, saying that more than 99% of all oil shipments are delivered without incident." That is not good enough for public safety. Too many railroad oil spills, fires and explosions in the past year have demonstrated this. Many major rail routes pass through numerous towns and cities, including mine.

A success rate of a small fraction over 99% for successful deliveries "without incident" would be a recipe for failure of many companies that deliver products and goods, some of them dangerous. These companies would include Fedex, United Parcel Service, many trucking lines and the U.S. Postal service. The railroad industry's position is yet another example of corporate self-interest superseding the public's interest.

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