Skip to comments.Crude trains keep rolling
Posted on 08/04/2013 5:34:43 AM PDT by thackney
Canadas two big railroads and oil producers are pressing ahead with plans to increase the use steel-wheels-on-steel-rails to move crude even as the small Quebec town of Lac-Megantic reels from what can go wrong with a crude-laden train.
Canadian Pacific Railway, despite four derailments of trains carrying oil or petroleum products this year, posted a record second-quarter profit, crediting long-haul oil shipments for much of the gain, while Canadian National Railway cited oil transport as a key to its profits for the quarter.
But, acknowledging the public and political demand for action, both have tightened their safety procedures for trains carrying hazardous materials, staying one jump ahead of the Canadian government and its transportation regulators.
Jane OHagan, chief marketing officer for CP Rail, said the movement of oil will form a larger part of her companys business, which is expected to account for 70,000 carloads this year and double that in 2015.
Crude-by-rail remains a complementary and important supply chain option for producers, refiners and transloaders looking to benefit from the flexibility of moving any type of crude to any North American market, she said.
CN Rail Chief Executive Officer Claude Mongeau told analysts that his company hopes to learn as much as it can from the Quebec disaster, even though it was not involved in any way.
I have initiated a fact-based and rigorous assessment, with a view to further improve our solid safety record, he said.
Crude cargoes up 150%
CN Rail showed the clear benefits of the rapid growth in rail shipments, reporting crude cargoes were up 150 percent over a year ago, generating almost C$100 million. CN executives said they are in talks with large oil producers and refiners, mainly in Alberta, about building new terminals that can more efficiently transfer crude to large unit trains.
Mongeau said some terminals are being built to allow the transport of heavy oil without adding diluents that allows the crude to move through pipelines.
CP Rails Chief Operating Officer Keith Creel, retaliating against those who suggested the companys ongoing layoffs to reduce its payroll from 19,505 a year ago to 15,500 by the end of this year probably reduced the safety component, said the root causes of derailment were not even remotely connected to trimming manpower or capital budgets.
We have made our inspection standards more rigid and we have actually increased our capital investment, he said.
Immediate changes demanded
The Transportation Safety Board, TSB, of Canada has sent two letters to Transport Canada calling for immediate changes to prevent trains being left unattended, while imposing more rigorous standards for the number of hand brakes required to park freight trains. While the regulators are taking swift action on the safety front the TSB is also conducting exhaustive tests to determine the chemical composition of crude oil on the train by taking samples from each of the 72 tanker cars.
Edward Burkhardt, chairman of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway, operator of the runaway train, told reporters the Canadian authorities are taking a huge number of samples in their efforts to find out how explosions occurred in the heart of Lac-Megantic.
Crude does not blow up, he said.
A TSB official told Petroleum News fires from the derailed train ignited butane burners used for cooking in the towns business district.
However, the Globe and Mail said industry sources have suggested additives were combined with the Bakken crude to facilitate the transfer of the crude, while others have speculated that the tanker cars had residues of chemicals from a previous shipment, or pointed to the possibility of high levels of flammable hydrogen sulphide. In May, Calgary-based Enbridge filed regulatory documents with the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission asking permission to refuse to ship Bakken crude with high levels of hydrogen sulphide through its pipelines.
Enbridge said in the submission that it wanted to ensure the safe operation of its system and the health and safety of its employees.
Both the TSB and Transport Canada are conducting separate investigations to establish how the explosions occurred, but have cautioned it will likely take months before they issue findings.
The MM&A train, carrying 72 cars of North Dakota Bakken crude, was left on a main line pending a crew change when it rolled downhill at high speed until it left the tracks in the heart of Lac-Megantic.
Operating procedures strengthened
CP spokesman Ed Greenberg said his company was strengthening (its) operating procedures in some key areas that were identified in the Lac-Megantic accident, and CN spokesman Mark Hallman said CN had commenced a review of all train securement measures in the aftermath of the Lac-Megantic tragedy. MM&A had only one engineer on board, something only two rail carriers in Canada are permitted to do under federal regulations.
CP and CN said they use two-man crews on all trains and all rail lines. They said any tightening of their procedures would not affect the movement of crude on their systems.
Meanwhile, the Toronto-based law firm of Rochol Genova is seeking court permission to start a class-action suit against three parties involved in the MM&A shipment of 50,000 barrels. No dollar figure was attached to the filing.
The firm, which specializes in class-action suits, alleged in a news release that the defendants it has named failed to ensure that the highly flammable contents on the DOT-111A tankers that derailed in Lac-Megantics downtown area ... were properly contained and safely transported.
Several firms listed
In addition to MM&A, it listed World Fuel Services, Dakota Plains Holdings and Irving Oil and their subsidiaries as defendants, reflecting the fact that the liability for the accident is spread across a broader network of involved corporations. Rochon Genova said its plaintiffs are the partner of a woman who died in the explosions which followed the train derailment and the owner of a restaurant where most of the victims died.
World Fuel and Dakota Plains are partners in a crude transloading facility at New Town, North Dakota, that connects to the CP Rail system, which carried the 72-car unit train to Montreal where it was handed over to MM&A. Irvings 300,000 bpd refinery at Saint John, New Brunswick, was the destination for the MM&A train.
The outlook for MM&A grows bleaker, with Quebec provincial police executing a search warrant on the Montreal headquarters of the Chicago-based railway, looking for evidence of criminal negligence in the crash.
Meanwhile, the town of Lac-Megantic said MM&A had missed a deadline to pay nearly C$4 million in cleanup costs, despite issuing a legal ultimatum.
MM&A has already laid off dozens of employees, including 19 in Quebec, and is attracting a wave of rumors that it is headed for bankruptcy.
Crude Trains Keep Rolling....?
You are right. Now that you’ve mentioned it, I have noticed some really vulgar graffiti spray painted on box cars lately.
Tell us again how them pipelines is bad for the en-vi-ro-ment.
I don't think that's the kind of crude they mean.
I think they mean poorly constructed steam engines or maybe wooden wheels.
Read somewhere recently since keystone is on hold
that the Canadians are working on expanding/extending
existing pipelines eastward towards Montreal
and other locations for access to refineries and export.
Crude oil is pretty tame compared to other items being hauled in bulk on trains.
They are trying to get oil/bitumen pipelines both to the East and West. Wise of them and they should build both; but they do have their own foolish protesters.
reels from what can go wrong with a crude-laden train.
What DID go wrong with that train? Haven’t heard a word about the investigation for weeks. Last I heard the company was claiming sabotage. Then silence.
Actually, “crude” as in “Crude Oil”.
I had some ridiculous idea that I was a stand up comic.
As expected, it's a kneejerk reaction in response to what was most likely insufficient handbrakes being applied (violation of EXISTING railroad rules).
As I expected, the FRA has gotten involved and is now in the process of creating more regulations, demanding some more bullshit paperwork, and basically corrupting a common sense system that has worked ever since steel wheels were designed to roll on steel rails.
Anymore, in the railroad industry, the lawyers and corporate douchebags embrace more Federal Regulation, and less hiring of qualified employees that know what they are doing. This way, all they have to do is adhere to a minimum standard set forth by law... and when something "goes wrong" they are compliant having obeyed the law... which is a minimum standard.
It all really serves itself. When something goes wrong, and the existing laws were not good enough, or railroad rules were not followed, more laws are added.
I live a few hundred yards east of the tracks so I see the traffic going through, it is a lot of traffic. Glad to be set back from the road, noise isn't a problem!
In very simple terms:
The train was parked overnight and left unattended with one engine running that maintained the brake air pressure line.
A small fire was found near/at the train.
Fire fighters, following the train guidelines shut down the engine and put out the fire, contacted train dispatching.
An hour or so later, the train began to roll downhill.
The train was going too fast to stay on the track as it rolled through this town.
Detailed timeline at:
- - - - - - -
I thought the great innovation 10 years ago was that air pressure held the breaks OPEN, and if the pressure failed they would CLOSE.
Did we forget this wisdom?
Sorry 100 years ago.
Run by poorly dressed engineers who make rude gestures and shout obscenities as they go by....
Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company for Warren Buffet reported a 48% increase in profits for the second quarter. Each share earned $ 10,041. Berkshire Hathaway owns the Great northern Union Pacific and Santa Fe railroads, that are carrying all of the crude from the Bakken oil Field.0
The reserve tanks on each individual car still closes and holds the brakes. Which is why the train did not start rolling for more than an hour.
The tanks are designed to give the operators time to set the hand breaks.
But the train was left abandoned, and procedure was not followed setting sufficient hand breaks prior to leaving unattended.
That makes no sense. Air breaks are FULL ON when there is NO air pressure in the lines.
The brakes were either not set initially or were released prior to the train rolling.
It was not a systemic failure it was either operator error or sabotage. Probably the latter judging by the fire.
Someone released the brakes.
This is a train, not a truck. The systems are not the same, and for good reason.
It was not a systemic failure it was either operator error or sabotage.
You left out incompetence.
Of course they’re different but the principle is the same. Air pressure is required to keep the brakes from applying. If the brake cylinders are not pressurized the brakes are full-on.
It was not a failure in the brake system. When pneumatic brakes fail the vehicle won’t budge. It was operator error, aka ‘incompetance’ in your post, or sabotage.
For as long as pressure remains in each air reserve tank on each car. That gives the train operator time to set the hand brakes. Unless he left the train with no one in attendance, like they did here.
The brakes held for at least an hour. Then the bled down enough to no longer have sufficient pressure to hold the train on the incline.
When pneumatic brakes fail the vehicle wont budge.
Again, this is a train, not a truck. There are no springs to hold the brakes closed. On a highway with a failure in the brake system, broken air lines, etc, you can drag the rig to the side of the road, let other traffic through and call a tow truck. Trains don't have that luxury, so they don't use spring brakes held open by air pressure.