Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tank Car Safety, Revisited (and BLEVEs)

Since writing Tank Car Safety, there has been another round of derailments and fires. The disconcerting issue is that most, if not all, of them were using the new (half-height head shield design), supposedly, safe cars.

Click here if you want to skip to the BLEVEs.

A derailment of a train carrying oil from the North Dakota's shale fields in Feb. 2015 in Mount Carbon, W. Va involved the "safer" design: yahoo reports and Grand Forks Herald reports.

The BNSF wreck in March, 2015 near Galena, IL that burned also involved the "safer" design. "Although BNSF Railway officials have not disclosed the destination, railroad industry experts say the train that derailed near Galena was likely been bound for Chicago, and then sent to refineries on the East Coast." [ChicagoTribune] Why BNSF would not be honest about such an obvious fact as the destination helps Americans to distrust corporations. Anybody can look at a map and see that train would have used the route that goes a few blocks from my home in Downers Grove, IL. The really scary aspect of this accident is that this train was going rather slow. So the industries stop-gap measure of slowing down oil trains does not solve the problem.

In May, 2015, BNSF dumped 6 cars near Heimdal, ND. But the NBC article is too shallow to indicate the design generation of the tank cars. This is another train that was probably headed to a refinery on the east could and that would have used the route that is a few blocks from my house. [NBC]

In Nov, 2015, both CN and BNSF had tank car wrecks in Wisconsin. [Fox9]

The railroad industry has a test facility in Colorado. Weren't these new designs tested with North Dakota crude? The industry has paid a lot for "safe" tank cars only to find that they are not safe. The FRA has issued new design requirements. But it is the first time I have seen an industry ask for more expensive design requirements than the FRA specified. The FRA stuck with the burn resistant time that was designed for propane cars. (My memory of that requirement was 24 hours.) The industry wanted a longer burn time required (4 days?) now that the old rule of thumb "crude oil doesn't burn" has been proven to be very wrong. I sure hope they did better testing of this second "safer" design before thousands of cars are built with that design.

A page concerning train derailments has an interactive map indicating where oil spills have happened. (Unfortunately, the link for a more readable map is broke.) CRUDE-BY-RAIL ACROSS AMERICA does have a map that is readable. They comment: "Oil trains are not subject to the same strict routing requirements placed on other hazardous materials; trains carrying explosive crude are permitted to pass directly through cities—with tragic results. In the absence of more protective regulations, communities across the country are beginning to take matters in their own hands." Part of the problem is that the railroads tore up most of the routes that bypassed Chicago. And Chicago is paying billions of dollars to allow trains to pass through it more efficiently. A new bypass is being fought by the NIMBYers and rejected by some of the Class I railroads. It is one thing to use a longer route for a single tank car carrying a nasty chemical, but another thing to use a longer route for 100+ car train.

The government has defined the notion of a Key Train speed limit. "The Key Train limit applies to High Threat Urban Areas as designated by the government (major cities) as well as any city with a population over 100,000." The speed limit for Key Trains is 35mph on the BNSF and 40mph on the CSX in the Chicago area. In contrast, regular freight trains can run through Downers Grove at 50mph instead of 35mph. Unfortunately, the slower speed of long oil and ethanol trains does cause a bigger traffic jam for cars using the crossings and for the railroad. For completeness, passenger trains (commuter and Amtrak) can go 70mph. [comments on Facebook posting]

The video below is calling the legacy DOT-111 design the one with half-height shields. But this design is the design that was built starting just a few years ago to replace the original legacy DOT-111 design. The advertisement implies that the newest design should have lower probability of release at 50mph than the previous design has at 35mph. But it talks about a "high-capacity pressure release valve." Why is a release of product from a safety value less dangerous to the environment/fire-potential than a rupture?

Update: Ethanol spills on the rise in the Midwest

New, Safer US Rail Cars Gather Dust Even as Ethanol Trains Grow Longer  The lease for a DOT-117 is about three times as much as a DOT-111 car, and ethanol doesn't have to convert until 2023.

Crude oil leaks into flooded fields after the derailment of a BNSF train near Doon, Iowa, June 22, 2018. YouTube/CBC News
Following a June derailment in Iowa, BNSF Railway is moving to limit the use of older tank cars retrofitted to upgraded DOT-117 federal safety standards, Reuters reported.
Federal regulations require the older DOT-111 cars carrying crude to be retrofitted or eliminated from service by 2020. Some 11,000 DOT-111 tank cars have been retrofitted to DOT-117 standards since 2016....BNSF hauled 39,799 carloads of crude, the most, of a total 88,571 carloads moved by Class Is in the fourth quarter of 2017, according to the Surface Transportation Board."
[The problem with building tank cars for crude oil transport is that many of the cars become worthless after a pipeline is built. The five companies that make tank cars (Union Tank Car, Trinity, ARI, National Steel Car, and Greenbrier) are fed up with the delay of new Federal regulations and have decided themselves to switch all new production to a 9/16" thick shell. [Railway Age-change] From another post: DesmoinesRegister  has 45 photos (paycount) "The train was carrying tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to Stroud, Oklahoma, for ConocoPhillips. ConocoPhillips spokesman Daren Beaudo said each tanker can hold more than 25,000 gallons of oil. Beaudo also did not know whether the derailed oil cars were the safer, newer tankers intended to help prevent leaks in the event of an accident. "We lease those cars and are in the process of verifying with the owners the exact rail car specifications," Beaudo said in an email."]

Norfolk Southern Corp posted:
Norfolk Southern can confirm that a train derailed shortly after 8 p.m. near Bartow, Ga. in Jefferson County. Some of the rail cars on the train were carrying chlorine, and chlorine odors and a cloud have been reported in the area.
Our first priority is the safety of local residents, responders, and employees. Local officials have ordered an evacuation of residents in the area. Please follow their instructions.
We are at the scene working with first responders and environmental contractors.
We will provide updates as soon as more information is available.
Three hours later:
Update on Bartow, Ga., train derailment: it has been confirmed that Hydrogen Peroxide was released. There is no indication of a chlorine leak at this time. The investigation is ongoing. ‬
[Looking at a map, the town is small enough they must have evacuated the whole town.]
Jean Knisley Schmidt This is why I have 3 cat carriers for 3 cats even though I only take one cat to the vet at a time. I live near railroad tracks and I have an evacuation plan in mind. The cats will be coming with me.

It seems that CSX's derailments went up after Hunter installed Precision Scheduled Railroading. Now that Norfolk Southern has announced they are implementing PSR, are their derailment rates going up?

Kevin Piper posted
There is a permanent 30 MPH speed restriction through Crete, Nebraska, today on BNSF. This is why:
February 18, 1969, set up as a “perfect storm” for a train derailment in Crete, NE, a small college town of approximately 4500 (6950 today) people. The temperature was 4 degrees F, the wind was calm, relative humidity was 90 percent, there was approximately 14 inches of snow on the ground, a temperature inversion was in place and ground fog was present.
At 6:30 AM, Chicago, Burlington and Quincy (CB&Q) Train 64, consisting of three locomotive units and 95 cars, was entering town at 52 mph on the single main line track. Eleven boxcars were standing on a siding south of the main line. Burlington Train 824 with one locomotive and 49 cars was standing on a siding north of the main line. It contained three tank cars of anhydrous ammonia.
As Train 64 passed the turnout leading to the Wymore main siding, the spread closure allowed the wheels of the 28th car to derail. The wheels struck and broke the guardrail, then derailed, and the car and train continued. The 72nd car derailed at the switch toward the side where the broken guardrail was located, and a total of 19 cars of this train derailed.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) later attributed the cause of the derailment to “movement of rail at the turnout due to lateral forces of the locomotive caused by surface deficiencies of track. The track was not maintained for 50 MPH operation according to standards, and irregularities contributed to the increase of lateral forces.” In other words, Train 64 was speeding. The speed limit for the area conditions was 35 MPH.
Some railcars on Train 64 struck two of Train 824’s anhydrous ammonia tank cars, causing them to derail and overturn, releasing the contents. Tank car SOU 263210, an ammonia car, split into two pieces, releasing 29,200 gallons of ammonia almost instantly. The top 16 feet landed 200 feet over Highway 33 in the front yard of a residence at 1109 Highway 33. The rest of the tank was still intact and was propelled 140 feet onto Unona Avenue. Tank car GATX 18120 exploded, releasing 29,200 gallons of liquid ammonia, which almost immediately turned into ammonia gas. One gallon of ammonia liquid produces 877 gallons of gas volume.
Portions of the shattered tank traveled to the yards of residences located north of the derailment at 813, 905 and 907 13th Streets. The NTSB reported that the shattering was caused by a heavy blow delivered to the head of the tank car by the coupler of another car and the brittleness of the metal at a very cold temperature, 4 degrees F.
The derailment site completely blocked Unona Avenue between Nebraska Highway 33 and 13th streets, leaving eastbound 13th Street as the only direct response route to the injured people and the only evacuation route out of the area.
It appears the highest and ultimately lethal concentrations of ammonia were located on the west end of 13th Street on the south side of the street. All of the victims were in that area when the impact occurred. Three Crete residents died during the accident, and three died later in the hospital. Three unidentified transients riding the train were killed by trauma during the derailment.
Injury reports varied, however, the NTSB reported 53 in its final report. Of the injured were two train crewmembers. One, the train’s conductor, fell approximately 18 feet as he stepped from the train, going over a bridge west of the derailment. He was later transferred to Lincoln, NE, for treatment.
Following is a summary of some of the causalities:
Ron Hatchett, his wife, Ethelene, and their 4-year-old daughter, Gloria, ran out of their house following the derailment. Ron and Gloria died. Ethelene survived, possibly because she was found face down, which might of limited the amount of inhaled ammonia she received.
Louis Erdman and his wife, Maxine, fled their home after it was punctured by debris. Louis made it between approximately 30 feet before falling to the place where he was found dead. Maxine made it to a neighbor’s home and was later found dead.
The home of Lyle and Sonya Safranek was closest to the impact. Firefighters found Lyle deceased in the street. Sonya and their 1-year-old son were found in a snow bank a short distance from the front of the house. Rescue worker Clarence Busboom said, “We had come past this place maybe 15 minutes earlier, but because of the thick gas hadn't been able to see anything.” They were hospitalized and survived.
The Kovar home was struck by parts of the train cars. Robert Kovar went out to the porch to investigate what happened and collapsed outside. He was taken to the hospital by rescuers and later died. His daughter, Roberta, 19, heard the crash, covered herself with bed covers and was rescued about an hour later.
Information on the Crete Fire Department response was provided directly from firefighters Everett Weilange, Chuck Henning, Arnold Henning, Loren Henning and Chuck Vyhniek, all of whom responded to the incident in 1969. Note: Fourteen Crete firefighters who responded to the incident are still living at the time of this article.
First reports coming into Crete emergency responders indicated that a propane tank had exploded. Firefighters and Fire Chief Don Henning were alerted by the outdoor fire sirens and Plectron alert radios.
Crete firefighters Loren Henning and Chuck Vyhniek were on the first fire apparatus responding to the call, which was just a few blocks west of the fire station. (The 1946 American LaFrance open-cab pumper in which they responded is still in the department inventory and used as a public relations apparatus.)
At the time of the incident, Crete fire apparatus did not have radio communications in the apparatus, so information initially had to be passed person to person. With the very limited visibility created by the fog and anhydrous ammonia vapors, it was difficult to get a grasp of the scope of the incident in order to coordinate the response. As the incident progressed, radios from the Sheriff’s Office were pressed into duty, which improved communications.
Turnout gear was limited, as were SCBA. Henning and Vyhniek indicated that the mixture did not move and just hung low in the air. They did not know what the fog was, but some firefighters indicated that there was a smell of ammonia in the air. (Anhydrous ammonia is heavier than air and tends to pool in low places and on the ground.)
Henning and Vyhniek approached the site from the east. When they arrived on scene, they smelled something but didn't know what it was, so they backed out and approached from a dirt road along the tracks from the north. They smelled something there as well.
They then drove by Douglas Manufacturing and stopped just west. Henning jumped from the apparatus at 17th and Main streets and started evacuating people from the area. Henning went door to door with SCBA and several other firefighters on 13th Street. Firefighters evacuated residents on the south and west sides of town.
Firefighters encountered bodies and injured people as they made their search. Exposed skin on victims exhibited deterioration, likely from contact with ammonia or vapors. Firefighter Arnold Henning reported driving his apparatus into the cloud and finding body parts that were later determined to be from transients. Firefighter Chuck Henning worked for Wanek’s Furniture Store in Crete and used a furniture delivery truck to take bodies to the mortuary.
While searching, firefighters located a car that had stalled due to a lack of oxygen, which had been displaced by the ammonia gas. Alvin Rozdalousky got out of the car and ran five blocks east to Main Street for safety. Firefighter Weilange used his own vehicle to alert people in the south side of Crete and move many from harm's way.
All of the firefighters I talked with indicated that their first priority was to evacuate people to safety and isolate the scene. Between 200 and 300 people were evacuated from the area. Crete firefighters had previously trained and participated in tabletop exercises for disasters. This preparation likely helped them as they responded to the train derailment.
Four firefighters were injured in the incident from ammonia exposure and were treated and released.
Following evacuation, some people went to be with relatives, others to Doane College in Crete, the Armory and even the fire station. Food was brought in by residents and businesses and supported by the Red Cross. The Nebraska National Guard from Lincoln assisted in a secondary search to determine if all had been rescued and evacuated.
A helicopter was brought in and helped to disperse the gas fumes with its whirling blades.
Firefighters remained on scene for three days. According to Wally Barnett, assistant state fire marshal, “If there had been a west wind and it had been a clear day, that cloud of gas could have made a clean sweep of the town.” Assistance from other towns’ fire and police came from Lincoln, Malcolm, York, Seward, Milford, Hallam, Friend, Beatrice, Fairbury, Wilbur and the Southeast Rural District in Lincoln.
During the week after the derailment, the Crete Fire Department was dispatched to a fire at Doane College Merrill Hall for a fire. Firefighters laid hoselines and began to fight the fire when the hoses started to leak from exposure to ammonia at the derailment. One firefighter commented that the hose looked like a soaker hose with all the leaks.
Crete's encounter with the train derailment and anhydrous ammonia occurred prior to the development of organized response to hazardous materials in the U.S. fire service. The Department of Transportation (DOT) did not have an Emergency Response Guidebook or a placard and labeling system in place. No markings of the dangerous chemicals in transportation were required on the tanks of anhydrous ammonia. Requirements did not come until the early 1970s. The DOT had also not yet coined today's term for chemicals in transportation, Dangerous Goods or Hazardous Materials as they are normally called.
The idea of sheltering people in place inside of buildings to protect against chemical exposure did not exist at this time. However, many people did in fact shelter themselves inside their homes, placed wet rags over their faces and some covered with blankets—actions that likely saved their lives. Not a single person who stayed inside the entire time of the emergency and took self-protective actions died or was seriously injured. Those who died had left their homes and were overcome by the ammonia vapors outside. Some died on their driveways and one on a street corner. Curiosity called them out to see what had happened and they paid the ultimate price.
Unknowingly, even before the concept of shelter in place had been developed, victims of the Crete derailment confirmed the effectiveness of this tactic when hazardous materials are released outside of buildings or a vapor cloud travels to populated areas, preventing an expeditious and safe evacuation.
Had this incident happened at any other time of the year, it would have likely been much worse. In warmer weather, people would have had less clothing on, windows might have been opened in the dwellings, and more people may have gone outside to see what happened.
Liquid ammonia has a boiling point of -40 degrees F. Anhydrous means without water. Ammonia seeks water when released into the environment. However, at 4 degrees F, there wasn't much water in the area of the derailment that was not frozen. It is unlikely that people exposed to the ammonia were sweating; if they had been, ammonia could have reacted with the moisture on the skin, causing serious burns.
Even though the air temperature and items in the environment were above the boiling point of ammonia, warmer temperatures would have caused even more gas to be formed quicker by the spilled liquid ammonia. Not everyone who went outside died; however, no one who sheltered in place died. The snow on the ground may have someway created a barrier to the exposed skin and airways of those who survived.
Firefighter Leonard Svarc lived three or four blocks northeast of the derailment site. He heard the fire whistle and responded to the firehouse. When he found out what had happened, he tried to get back to his family to make sure they were OK, but he could not get there. Meanwhile, according to his daughter, Judy, Leonard’s wife, Delma, along with Judy’s sister, brother and cousin were still in the home. Delma got rags and wetted them and had the children put them over their faces. They went out to the family car to try to escape. There was a strong smell of ammonia, and it burned their eyes. Once in the car, they tried to drive away, but got stuck. By that time, Leonard had returned and took them to the Armory. Judy shared with me that she believes the wet towels saved their lives. Judy and her mother were hospitalized for two days, her mother burned by the ammonia and Judy experiencing recurring bloody noses.
[It wasn't that long ago that the term "Hazardous Materials" and the notions of placards and response procedures didn't even exist.]

Within 10 hours both BNSF and CN derailed tank cars in Illinois.
  • Trevor Ault shared a post about "a tanker car derailment" closing US 136 northwest of Table Grove. The "urgent alert" was issued 5:45pm 1/13/2019.
  • Bill Molony posted a Fox32 link: 3am 1/14/2019    Metra Heritage Corridor cancelled service and Amtrak took the Rock Island route between Joliet and Chicago.    Jeff Kline Based on what I could make out of the aerial footage, this seems to have occurred outside of Rowell Chemical off Archer, between Route 83 and Willow Springs Road (directly across Archer from Red Gate Woods). I could be wrong, but that's what my cyber-sleuthing deduced.    Glen Olbermann Wow! I wonder if its the "oil job"? Right in my work area, Glenn Yard. That train was headed back to Glenn Yard too. Jessie the yard master, had a helluva morning. I already know the 3 train masters from Markham yard is out there.   Tad Dunville Is the Amtrak detour still going?   (An hour later)  Tad Dunville According to the train tracker map, the Eagle is 27 minutes early and running on the normal route in Brighton Park right now.
This connector between the former GM&O and the former Rock Island in Joliet is what allows Amtrak to use the Metra/Rock Island route to Chicago instead of the UP+CN+Metra/GM&O route.

Tony Raia posted
One of Amtrak’s re-route today, January 14, due to a derailment. Joliet, IL.
Tad Dunville Wonder how late they were? Don’t detours have to run at 30mph due to lack of cab signals? Also, how did they make that stop, at the Rock platforms?
Todd Pearson Tad Dunville yes on the 30 even though it’s BS( won’t get into the politics so meh, ) but that’s only till Purington.

As for the stop? Stop at Amtrak depot, dump test, shove back, then head up the rock. Easy peasey.
[I don't understand the Purington reference or know who ruled the 30mph limit.]

One of the big dangers concerning tank car fires is BLEVE, Boling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion. As you can image, there are a lot of BLEVE videos on You Tube.

For the big bang, go to 0:50, but continue to watch because there is a second BLEVE.

This video shows that an additional danger of a BLEVE is that it can blow the end of the tank off like a rocket. It is a tank truck instead of a tank car, but the danger is the same. I think the cylinder in this frame is the tank end that he shows near the end coming to a rest to his left. You can hear it bounce along the ground. And during some of his jerking around he caught a few more glimpses of it flying through the air. This is the comment that made me realize I was looking at the end of the tank flying towards the camera.
John Dailey Never stand inline with the tank.
Screenshot @ -0:39   (source)
Screenshot @ -0:13
Andrew Beeman: It’s on your hazmat paperwork for propane “if contents are ignited, car may rocket”

Is this the same incident?
Screenshot @ 0:04

U.S. raises safety bar for crude oil transported by rail     "In addition, railroads affected by the new standards will have to share certain railcar and cargo information with state safety agencies." This should have been required a long time ago. I have read articles about state agencies being refused information. The railroads would mumble about propitiatory and/or security. Given all of the bragging (advertising) that railroads do about being high-teck, sharing information should not be a financial burden.    "Railroads will also be required to establish geographic response zones along various rail routes to ensure there are people and equipment staged and prepared to respond to an oil spill within 12 hours." Is 12 hours too late? Even with an allowed 12-hour delay, I can see that special response zones would be a financial burden. I still think they should put a tank car containing the necessary foam ingredient in each train. Could they add equipment to the train that would make foam with a connector that is compatible with a fire-hydrant connection so that local communities could use their own fire trucks to fight the fire with foam? How is foam pumped? Does it make sense to also have oil booms carried on a train so that local first responders could also fight spills? Asking local first responders to just watch a fire and/or spill get worse for up to 12 hours seems silly. "PHMSA has estimated the administrative costs of the new requirements at $3 to $4 million per year for industry, which includes the seven major Class 1 railroads." The adjective "administrative" is interesting. How much would building and staffing the "emergency response zones" cost? How would this cost compare to the cost of a tank car of foam ingredient and a boxcar containing a foam generator, oil booms, and other response equipment hauled on each "oil can" train?    The rule doesn't require anything if they put less than 19 cars in a train. But I'll bet 19 cars can still cause a big problem if they get derailed. The accident reports I have seen is that even if a lot of tankers get derailed, it is just two or three that actually cause the problems. One of the tenants of Precision Scheduling Railroading (PSR) is to get away from unit trains. Instead, put your grain, oil, mixed freight, coal, etc. in the next train going the right direction. This would make it easier to keep the flamable tank car count below 20 and dodge this regulation.    And what about all of the other scary stuff being hauled by railroads such as chlorine gas or anhydrous ammonia?. There has to be a significant amount of anhydrous ammonia rolling on our railroads because it is becoming more popular as the fertilizer for corn crops.

safe_image for link
John Riley What makes crude oil unstable is the other chemicals mixed with the crude , according to the FRA , a tank car could have crude from several different sources and are ether heavier or lighter in gravity giving the car a more violent back and forth swishing inside the tank car ! As a retired conductor I’ve seen this happen ! And I’ve seen these cars leak because the seals are exposed to corrosive chemicals mixed with the crude.
James Medlin Wish I had a few better pictures of it. Word is engineer was in excess of territory speed.
BobbynJenny Vander Meer Definitely the biggest one I've had to repair yet!
[CSX dropped 18 crude oil tank cars off the tracks at 4600 block of Euclid Ave., East Chicago. No leaks. I guess an accident blocking traffic is not news in the Chicagoland area because I could not find mention of this accident in the Chicago Tribune.

"No injuries have been reported, and as a precaution local businesses have been asked to evacuate." [rtands] Yet another road closure I understand, but I would expect the Chicago Tribune to mention it if businesses had to be evacuated. ]

Credit and details are in Crescent City, IL: June 21, 1970 BLEVE and Old Grain Elevator

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