NEW YORK, July 9 (Reuters) – The oil-laden practice that derailed and exploded in a small Canadian city on Saturday, possibly killing as many as 50 people, included a class of railcar whose vulnerability to leaks and deadly explosions was well-known to regulators.
The U.S. Nationwide Transportation Safety Board has issued safety pointers on the extensively used, cylindrical tank cars often known as DOT-111s, including a advice that every one tank cars used to hold ethanol and crude oil be strengthened to make them more resistant to punctures if trains derail.
The brand new guidelines, put ahead in March 2012, but which have not but been adopted by the Division of Transportation agency that oversees the sector, stem from a deadly ethanol practice derailment and explosion in Illinois in 2009.
The “insufficient design” of the DOT-111 tank vehicles made them “subject to wreck and catastrophic loss of hazardous materials,” the NTSB concluded in its investigation of the 2009 incident, which killed one person and injured several others in Cherry Valley, Illinois.
Saturday’s disaster in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, was caused by a runaway oil freight train that leveled the city’s center and killed at the very least thirteen people. One other 37 individuals are still missing.
It isn’t recognized if the practice’s DOT-111 tanker vehicles have been manufactured as much as the higher requirements. It’s also far from clear if extra puncture-resistant fittings might have withstood the crush of a train hurtling downhill and leaping the tracks into the middle of city.
Ed Balkaloul, an investigator for the Transportation Security Board of Canada, stated the “resistance” of the tanker automobiles could be part of the investigation.
“These cars are designed to hold all types of products. They might contain corn oil. They aren’t cars that are protected, like for instance the cars that carry propane, that are double hulled or which have shields on the entrance to offer resistance against shocks in case of impacts,” Balkaloul stated on Tuesday.
The rail business has met regulators half-manner on the NTSB’s suggestions. DOT-111 railcars ordered after October 2011 have been manufactured to the brand new code, however the trade has resisted spending an estimated $1 billion to retrofit practically 300,000 present tank vehicles.
In Lac-Megantic, Reuters noticed several derailed however undamaged railcars that were made before 2011, which suggests they weren’t manufactured to the new code. There have been additionally some cars made in late 2011, simply as the industry adopted higher standards. The fireplace burnt the markings on many automobiles.
Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, whose prepare derailed on Saturday, doesn’t own the railcars, in accordance with Chairman Ed Burkhardt. He mentioned the cars have been leased by the identical company that was delivery the crude, however declined to identify it.
World Fuel Providers Corp confirmed it was shipping the crude, but didn’t respond to questions concerning the vehicles. It mentioned it had offered the crude to Irving Oil, which owns the refinery in Canada that the train was touring to. World Gasoline Companies shares have fallen 7 % because the derailment.
HAMMERING OUT THE Rules
U.S. regulators have been debating the safety of the railcars for greater than 20 years.
Most of the existing DOT-111 fleet was constructed to carry ethanol, refined fuels or petroleum liquids, all of which are typically extra flammable than crude. Of an estimated 290,000 tank vehicles in service over a year ago, sixty nine p.c of them were DOT-111s, according to the NTSB’s March 2012 letter. Till just lately, solely a handful of these would have carried crude.
Now, about 10 percent of the fleet is used for crude because of railroads are increasingly used to transport shale oil, comparable to from North Dakota’s Bakken, to refineries. Much of the crude is shipped within the DOT-111 class railcars, business specialists say.
“There is no such thing as a technically official automotive for crude oil. People simply use whatever tank automobile is on the market, whether it’s a car constructed for ethanol, or a automobile built for gasoline or corn oil or some other product,” stated Keith Kronfeld, director of transload operations for Atlas Oil, a national gas provide and distribution company in Oregon.
The Association of American Railroads (AAR) previously opposed retrofitting, saying it might cost the industry “properly over” $1 billion. In comparison, derailment prices totaled about $64 million over the past 5 years, the group stated in a March 2011 letter. It mentioned there had been one fatality and 11 accidents from the derailments within the 2004-2008 interval.
The nation’s largest railroads made $70 billion in operating revenues in 2012, according to an AAR estimate.
AAR spokeswoman Patricia Reilly mentioned there are “technical difficulties” with the NTSB’s retrofitting requirement, however famous the industry has already adopted the more durable security standards for all tank vehicles ordered after October 2011.
“The AAR believes that enhancing the safety requirements of tank cars is an ever-evolving process and may involve the enter and experience of these whose goal is guaranteeing the secure transport of all hazardous materials, including crude oil and ethanol,” she said in an emailed statement.
In a March 2012 letter, the NTSB advised that imposing more durable security necessities solely on newly built DOT-111 cars was insufficient. It stated present railcars must be made extra puncture resistant by making their shell walls thicker and including further safety at the ends, the place the pile-up of decoupled vehicles can pose further threat.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Division of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Security Administration mentioned it is “considering amendments to current regulations that may improve rail security,” including for the DOT-111s, but the rules are still being hammered out.