Thursday, January 09, 2014

Train carrying crude oil crashes; rail car manager says 80,000 tank cars don't meet safety standards

On Tuesday night a Canadian train carrying crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas derailed, with 19 cars coming off the tracks near Plaster Rock, N.B., about 40 miles east of the Maine border. A cracked wheel is being blamed for the crash, which forced 150 homes to be evacuated, Kim Mackrael reports for The Canadian Press(CP photo by Tom Bateman)The crash comes on the heels of a crude oil one in July in Quebec, west of Maine, which killed 47. "Last week a 106-car BNSF Railway Co crude oil train crashed into a derailed car carrying grain in North Dakota, causing multiple explosions and fires," Kristen Hays notes for Reuters.

On Wednesday, William Furman, chief executive of The Greenbrier Companies, said "some 80,000 tank cars that don't meet current industry safety standards need to be replaced or retrofitted," Hays reports. Greenbrier "owns approximately 8,600 railcars, and performs management services for approximately 224,000 railcars," according to its website.

Furman "said 'modest but meaningful' improvements that can be implemented immediately could reduce major risks of a hazardous materials leak by as much as 80 percent in derailments," Hays writes. Furman said during Greenbrier's quarterly-earnings conference call with analysts, "We believe a retrofit proposal if adopted can be completed in a reasonably expedited time frame and do not accept that there is not adequate capacity in the industry to do so. The concern for public safety here is delay. Delay through the inability to act on the regulatory front while the public would like to see something done sooner."

The Railway Supply Institute, a lobby for tank-car owners has urged the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration "to adopt safety standards already embraced in October 2011 by the Association of American Railroads, the rail industry's trade group," Hays writes. "Under those standards tank railcars known as DOT-111s built after October 2011 should have thicker hulls and reinforced valves to better protect against punctures or leaks in derailments. But those built before that date lack those features and the rail industry has said it could cost $1 billion to retrofit older railcars. Furman said on Wednesday that about 80,000 railcars 'that are in question' were being used." (Read more)

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