Posts Tagged ‘crude oil train derailments’

FRA Fines Sperry, CSX for Failure to Followup on Suspected Track Defect at Derailment Site

October 10, 2015

An operator for Sperry Rail Service failed to conduct a visual inspection of a suspected rail defect on a CSX route in West Virginia at the location where a crude oil train later derailed and exploded.

The Federal Railroad Administration has fined Sperry and CSX $25,000 apiece for failure to follow-up on the suspected defect.

FRA officials said that the defect became a broken rail, which caused the 27-car derailment last February.

The agency said it will issue new training and rail replacement recommendations in an effort to prevent similar accidents from happening.

The rail inspections were conducted on Dec. 17 and Jan. 12. During the December inspection, the Sperry inspection vehicle detected a rail defect, but the operator on duty did not conduct a visual inspection because he thought that rough track had caused the defect indication.

The January inspection also found evidence of a defect but neither CSX or Sperry personnel conducted a follow-up visual or hand inspection.

During the derailment, 15 tank cars burned and explosions occurred over three days. More than 378,000 gallons of crude oil were spilled during the incident.

No fatalities or serious injuries occurred, but one home and a garage were destroyed. The train was traveling at 33 mph in a 50 mph zone at the time of the derailment.

In a report, the FRA said the derailment was preventable and recommended the following for CSX:

• Train operators of internal rail flaw detector vehicles to identify and investigate non-valid testing locations more effectively.
• Continue to improve upon rail-defect technology using previous and real-time inspection data to better detect flaws.
• Establish a plan to replace rail with similar defects on high-hazard flammable train routes, such as those that handled crude-by-rail trains.

The FRA recommended that Sperry work with railroads to train operators in how to identify suspected rail flaws.

That training should include review of digital rail flaw tests immediately before new testing is conducted and/or real-time comparison or previous results with current, incoming data.

Agency officials have also released a safety advisory that emphasizes the importance of more detailed inspections where defects and flaws are suspected.

In a related move, the FRA said it will explore the need for railhead wear standards and potentially require railroads to reduce train speeds where risks may pose a safety risk.

CSX said in a news release that it is working in collaboration with the FRA to develop additional inspection processes that will enhance its ability to quickly and accurately identify rail flaws using technology provided by Sperry.

This includes the use of ultrasound sensors to detect internal defects, implement practices that exceed FRA safety standards, and implementing a process that combines transmitting data from thorough rail inspections with hand testing within 72 hours of being recorded.

“Huge Increase’ In Crude Oil Going East by Rail

May 8, 2015

If it seems as though there are a lot more crude oil trains passing through the Great Lakes region in the past year, well there are.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said there has been a “huge increase” in rail deliveries of crude oil to East Coast refineries.

“Monthly rail receipts of crude oil accounted for more than half (52 percent) of the crude oil supply to East Coast refineries in February,” the EIA said. “As U.S. and Canadian production of crude oil has increased, crude supply by rail to East Coast PADD 1 (Petroleum Administration for Defense District 1) refineries has grown, displacing waterborne imports of crude oil from countries other than Canada, such as Nigeria.

“While refinery utilization in PADD 1 in early 2015 has been below typical levels, this still marks the first time in EIA’s dataset that crude deliveries by rail have accounted for such a high percentage of East Coast refinery supply.”

The EIA said that growth since 2010 in inland domestic and Canadian crude oil production created an opportunity for U.S. and Canadian railroads to move crude oil to U.S. refining centers on the Gulf, East, and West coasts as well as to refineries in Canada.

Much of the crude oil moved by rail is extracted from Bakken Shale in North Dakota and eastern Montana.

Bakken crude supplied by rail to U.S. East Coast refineries, along with U.S. crude production supplied by marine vessels from the Gulf Coast, has reduced demand for foreign crude oil at the East Coast refineries.

In January 2014, domestic crude oil accounted for half of all East Coast refinery crude oil receipts, and CBR net receipts to the East Coast surpassed non-Canadian crude oil imports.

“The growth in CBRl shipments to East Coast refineries has been made possible by expansions in the capacity to load and unload crude oil from trains,” the EIA said. “Some facilities handle individual railcars or a small number of railcars [in] manifest trains; others are built for unit trains that consist of 80 to 120 railcars carrying crude oil.”

As a result, rail terminals now are better equipped to load and unload unit trains.

Five years ago, U.S. rail loading capacity for crude oil was almost entirely for manifest freights, but now more than 30 loading terminals throughout the U.S. can accommodate unit trains.

On the East Coast, 10 terminals can unload crude oil unit trains. CBR unloading facilities are located on refinery property and at non-refinery sites with access to additional modes of transportation, including marine and short-distance pipelines, that allow the crude oil to be shipped on to refineries.

EIA expects that as more unit train unloading terminals are added that some volumes that previously transferred to vessels in Albany, N.Y., before moving on to refineries in New York Harbor, the Philadelphia area and Canada will be moved directly by rail closer to their ultimate destinations.

Agencies Take Action on Crude Oil Train Safety

April 21, 2015

An array of actions are being advanced by the Federal Railroad Administration, and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration that the agencies say will address issues raised in the wake of a spate of recent derailments involving crude oil and ethanol shipped by rail.

The proposals are the latest in a series of more than two dozen that DOT has initiated over the past 19 months.

The announcement includes one emergency order, two safety advisories, and notices to industry that are intended to further enhance the safe shipment of Class 3 flammable liquids.

The FRA also has asked the Association of American Railroads to help develop a formal process by which specific information becomes available to emergency responders and investigators within 90 minutes of initial contact with an investigator.

That information includes the train consist, including locomotives, cars and end-of-train device; waybill data; Safety Data Sheets for hazardous materials onboard; results of any product testing undertaken prior to transport to classify the materials; names and locations of companies and facilities handling the materials prior to a derailment; and the names of the railroads handling the materials and a timeline of custody for each.

The AAR said some of this information is not tracked by the railroads and it is not a requirement for customers to provide it.

DOT said that Emergency Order No. 30, Notice No. 1, establishes a maximum authorized speed of 40 mph for trains transporting large amounts of Class 3 flammable liquid through certain highly populated areas, known as High Thread Urban Areas.

The order is effective on trains containing 20 or more loaded tank cars in a continuous block (35 or more loaded tank cars) f Class 3 flammable liquid; and at least one DOT-111 tank car, including those built in accordance with Association of American Railroads CPC-1232 standards, if that car is loaded with a Class 3 flammable liquid.

“The boom in crude oil production, and transportation of that crude, poses a serious threat to public safety,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a statement. “The measures we are announcing today are a result of lessons learned from recent accidents and are steps we are able to take today to improve safety. Our efforts in partnership with agencies throughout this Administration show that this is more than a transportation issue, and we are not done yet.”

The AAR, generally, is supportive of the government’s safety efforts.

“The freight railroad industry shares the belief that there is no greater priority than safety. It is always our goal to make a safe network even safer, and as FRA data shows, 2014 was the safest year for train accidents in railroad history,” said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger in a statement.

Since 2013, there have been 23 crude oil-related train accidents in the U.S., the majority of which have not resulted in a release of oil.

CSX, EPA Reach Agreement on W.Va. Cleanup

March 10, 2015

CSX has reached an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the cleanup and restoration of land affected by a Feb. 16 derailment of a crude oil train in West Virginia.

The agreement will supersede an EPA order. CSX had agreed to submit within 21 days a comprehensive, long-term plan for cleaning up and restoring the areas affected by the derailment.

In agreeing to commit “significant resources” to cleaning up the derailment, CSX will participate in air and water monitoring and testing; recovering oil from Armstrong Creek, the Kanawha River and their tributaries and shorelines; and educating residents about potential effects from the incident, EPA officials said in a news release.

“The agreement between CSX and EPA provides a framework within which CSX can work, with oversight from EPA and West Virginia, to ensure that oil contamination from the derailment in Mount Carbon continues to be safely contained and that long lasting impacts are mitigated to protect human health and the environment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin.

The 109-car crude oil train had originated in North Dakota and was bound for a port in Virginia. Twenty-seven of its cars derailed, resulting in explosions and fires that prompted an evacuation of nearby residents.

Pa. Governor Seeks Stricter Crude Oil Standards

March 4, 2015

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has asked President Barack Obama to impose stricter crude-by-rail safety and enforcement standards.

“The potential for disaster is too great to ignore,” Wolf wrote in a letter to the president. “In my first weeks in office, I have made it a top priority to address this issue. My administration has begun to take steps to increase safety and response capability regarding trains traveling through Pennsylvania.”

Wolf cited a spate of recent derailment of trains carrying crude oil in making the case for greater federal safety standards across the board.

He is seeking a reevaluation of rail speed limits in high-density areas, stricter standards for tank cars and train braking systems, and increased federal assistance in hiring and training more rail safety inspectors.

He also wants Bakken oil treated to remove dangerous volatiles prior to shipping.

Wolf said he plans to meet with executives of Norfolk Southern and CSX to discuss ways to decrease the risk of derailments and accidents.

Rail safety standards have also not kept pace with current shipment levels, Wolf said in asking for a greater sense of urgency in creating and implementing new federal safety standards.

CSX Reopens Track at W.Va. Derailment Site

February 27, 2015

One of the two tracks taken out of service last week by a derailment of a CSX crude oil train in West Virginia reopened on Thursday.

The opening of the line near Mt. Carbon allowed a logjam of coal and other revenue trains to pass the derailment site for the first time since Feb. 16.

Environmental protection agencies and contractors continued to work at the site to restore the second mainline track.

Workers completed the excavation around the derailment site on late Wednesday and a temporary roadbed was installed overnight.

Investigators have collected dozens of soil samples over the past few days in order to ensure that all contaminated soil has been removed.

Twelve tank cars lying adjacent to the newly laid roadbed and have been positioned for removal by rail.

A total of 97,000 gallons of oily-water mixture from the containment trenches dug along the river embankment near the derailment site has been recovered.

The oily-water mixture has been transported to the nearby Handley Yard to await disposal.

Environmental crews and federal investigators expect to remain at the derailment site for several more days as they collect information as part of their investigation to determine the cause of the incident.

Detoured and curtailed train movements will likely return to their normal routing through West Virginia over the next couple of days.

The Feb. 16 derailment sent 28 cars off the rails and resulted in several large explosions and evacuation of nearby residents.



Cold Hindering W. Va. Derailment Cleanup

February 21, 2015

Record-breaking cold was hindering cleanup efforts on Friday at the site in West Virginia where a CSX crude oil train derailed earlier in the week.

Workers had placed back onto the rails all but one of the 28 derailed cars. About 19 cars were included in the explosions and crews were continuing to carefully remove product from those cars involved in the explosions.

Crude oil in the tankers was being transferred from the damaged cars.

The process is expected to continue around the clock, according to a press release issued by the U.S. Coast Guard, which oversees navigable waterways. The derails occurred in Mount Carbon last Monday.

“The safety of the residents and our response personnel remain the top priority,” says U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Federal On-Scene Coordinator Dennis Matlock. “We also continue efforts to contain, treat and recover product from the derailment scene.”

The Federal Railroad Administration said on Friday that the train was traveling at 33 mph in a 50 mph zone when it derailed. The cause of the derailment remains under investigation.

The train carried 3.1 million gallons of Bakken crude oil. About 6,810 gallons of oily-water mixture has been recovered from containment trenches dug along the river embankment.

The derailment has disrupted operations of Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal.

“Due to the temporary track closure, the westbound Cardinal has been originating in Indianapolis, rather than New York City. Amtrak Northeast Regional trains operating daily between New York City and Charlottesville, Va., are continuing to provide service over that route segment. The eastbound Cardinal from Chicago is truncated at Indianapolis, with chartered buses maintaining service to Cincinnati,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said.

CSX has been detouring freight traffic that normally uses the line.

Trains magazine reported on Friday that intermodal trains Q135 and Q136 were operating between North Baltimore, Ohio, and Portsmouth, Va., via former Baltimore & Ohio and Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac routes in northern West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia.

Some domestic coal traffic has been routed between Russell, Ky., and Spartanburg, S.C., across the railroad’s former C&O and Clinchfield Railroad territories.

Merchandise trains, operating as CSX L302 were serving freight terminals and their associated industries along the affected route both Thursday and Friday with service to South Charleston from Russell and again form Clifton Forge, Va., to Richmond, Va.