U.S. rules for crude tank cars may go beyond 2011 industry standard

Tue Jun 24, 2014 4:25pm EDT
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HOUSTON, June 24 (Reuters) - U.S. regulators this autumn may impose new standards for rail tank cars that carry crude oil that are tougher than the latest design adopted by railroads in 2011, a top industry safety executive said on Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has been under pressure to overhaul safety rules as it tries to respond to a recent series of fiery crude train crashes in North America and a surge in rail traffic carrying crude from shale fields to refineries.

A year ago, for instance, a runaway tanker train carrying crude smashed into the small town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people.

James Rader, senior vice president at Watco Industries LLC and the head of the Association of American Railroads' (AAR) tank car committee, said the Department of Transportation's measures could include thicker steel walls, thermal jackets to prevent fires and stronger, puncture-resistant, ends, or "heads".

"I pretty much could predict exactly what's going to happen. It's going to be a jacketed, thermally protected car, with a full head," said Rader, a former railroad regulator.

The thermal protection would be a ceramic material and full heads would be taller than the half-heads used now, he said.

Also, among the tank-car designs being looked at are some with 9/16-inch steel walls. Cars with 7/16-inch walls are widely used now.

Railroads and petroleum producers, worried about shipping costs, are close to coming up with a single design that they will recommend to the transportation department, Rader said.

That recommendation will enhance the latest design that railroads adopted for new cars in October 2011 to update a decades-old design known as the DOT-111, which is still the workhorse of the industry.   Continued...