consultants are sandburs

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

RAMSEY - Strib highlights several online items on oil-by-tanker-train safety.

They pass through Ramsey. They pass next to Federal Cartridge in Anoka. Questions exist. Strib's lead item, written by its staff, begins:

Oil train explosions like the one last week near Casselton, N.D., have revived long-standing worries that older railroad tank cars need to be strengthened to better withstand accidents.

Three disasters in the past six months in the United States and Canada have demonstrated the risks of carrying crude oil by rail. Oil tankers now carry more than 10 percent of U.S. oil, up 40-fold in five years, according to the Association of American Railroads.

“There is an increased interest … to look at tank cars and whether we can do more to remove the risk,” said Thomas Simpson, president of the Railway Supply Institute, a trade group for tank car builders and owners.

North Dakota, lacking sufficient pipelines, sends more than two-thirds of the crude from its Bakken oil region down the tracks, typically on 100-car-long trains. Many travel on BNSF Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific tracks through Minnesota, including the Twin Cities. Minnesota’s 20 ethanol plants also rely heavily on tank cars because current pipelines are unsuitable for that fuel.

Yet most of the nation’s 94,000 rail tankers carrying oil, ethanol and other flammable liquids don’t meet puncture-resistance and other standards that apply to new tank cars. Rail car and shipping industry officials say it could take a decade and cost billions to retrofit up to 65,000 older tankers that carry flammable liquids.

Federal regulators are now considering whether to require it.

In parallel, Strib posts this item, also this, and this. Indications of a lower flash point for North Dakota crude oil were noted earlier on Crabgrass, here.

Also, last week on the way to Coborns, empties were being transported along the BNSF track at Town Center, headed west. Do such emptied Bakken Oil cars appear more or less likely to have air-petrol mixes posing explosion risk? Evidence either way was not found online, but the question is a sound one to consider. This google. Info on degassing of rail tank cars with particularly volatile cargo, in Europe, here.

Somebody should be investigating and forming a safe transit, and emergency response plan. Rail track upkeep should not be anything but absolute top notch, through our dense urban housing areas.

WHAT IF: I tried to link to original reporting from December, 2006, but the original reports of Strib and ECM Publishers were not available to me online. However this Crabgrass link excerpts Strib on a 30-car trainwreck in Coon Rapids. Containers then, so no explosions; no fire. This Crabgrass link, this image:

Ask yourself, what if Bakken Oil were then the train's main cargo. Check the excerpting, again here, but reporting was that a faulty track - track condition was the suspected cause (online blurbs still exist, here and here, search either page for "Coon Rapids.")

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