NTSB urges action on rail tank car blasts after 3 fiery oil train derailments
WASHINGTON — The National Transportation Safety Board issued “urgent recommendations” Monday for retrofitting freight train tank cars as a result of four oil train derailments since mid-February, three of which resulted in fires.
The recommendations apply to a newer generation of tank cars — referred to as CPC-1232 cars — in addition to the older DOT-111 tank cars that had been the focus of safety concerns.
The NTSB recommendations Monday warn that even CPC-1232 tank cars are in need of retrofitting with thermal blankets and adequately sized pressure relief valves capable of performing under fire conditions.
That’s based on the NTSB’s investigation into an accident Feb. 16 in Mt. Carbon, W.Va., involving the derailment of a CSX oil train with 109 of the newer tank cars.
Initially, only two tank cars ruptured and became fireballs. But the fire spread to 13 more derailed tank cars when their heated shells failed from the nearby fire, according to the NTSB.
“Emergency responders reported that the first thermal accident occurred about 25 minutes after the accident,” the NTSB said. “By about 65 minutes after the accident, at least four thermal failures with energetic fireball eruptions had occurred. The 13th and last thermal failure occurred more than 10 hours after the accident.”
About 70 percent of crude oil shipped to refineries from the Bakken Shale Formation in North Dakota and Montana, along with 70 percent of ethanol shipped to refineries, is transported by rail, according to the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers.
The announcement was made as the White House Office of Management and Budget conducts a final review of proposed Transportation Department regulations for tank car safety.
Those regulations — expected to be issued by mid-May — likely will harmonize U.S. standards with rules recently announced by Transport Canada.
Since the derailment in West Virginia, three other accidents involving trains carrying crude oil — two in Ontario, Canada, and one near Galena, Ill. — influenced the NTSB’s decision to issue the urgent recommendations.