DOT Seeks New Rail Car Design and Bakken Crude Testing

Oil Rail Car Image
Oil Rail Car Image

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed new rules this week for the testing of Bakken crude and better designed rail cars.

Within two years, the DOT proposes phasing out older DOT-111 tank cars for the shipment of packing group I flammable liquids. Unless the current DOT-111 and CPC-1232 tank cars are retrofitted to comply with new tank car design standards, they would not be approved for use in the transport of Bakken crude, which falls into the group I flammable liquids category.

In addition to the new tank car standards, new operating procedures like braking controls and speed restrictions for trains classified as high-hazard flammable trains were proposed. Also included in the DOT's recommendations, a new liquids and gas testing program to address the following:

  • frequency of sampling and testing;
  • sampling at various points along the supply chain;
  • sampling methods that ensure a representative sample of the entire mixture;
  • testing methods to enable better analysis, classification, and characterization of material;
  • statistical justification for sample frequencies; and,
  • duplicate samples for quality assurance.

PHMSA/FRA Report Finds Bakken Crude is More Volatile

In conjunction with the new proposed rules, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) released a report summarizing the analysis of Bakken crude oil data gathered by PHMSA and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) between August 2013 and May 2014.  According to the report, data show that crude oil from the Bakken region in North Dakota tends to be more volatile and flammable than other crude oils.

By contrast, in May of 2014, The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), an industry trade association, released findings from a study that examined the characteristics of Bakken crude oil. In their report, the AFPM claims Bakken crude is within the safety standards for current rail car designs (DOT 111 tank cars), and is comparable to other light crudes.

Read more: AFPM Study Finds Bakken Crude Meets Current Safety Standards for Rail Car Design