PHMSA to propose rail tank car safety improvements

The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is considering steps to improve rail tank car safety requirements and will accept public comments on the proposals for 60 days, it said in an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking.

The proposals are designed to improve transportation of hazardous materials by rail, including growing shipments of crude oil. They came less than 2 months after a parked freight train carrying Bakken crude to an eastern Canadian refinery went out of control and derailed near Lac-Megantic in Quebec, causing a fire which took 47 lives and caused extensive property damage.

Canada’s Transportation Safety Board is continuing its investigation of the July 6 accident. PHMSA said its Sept. 4 ANPRM follows the collection of stakeholder input on rail safety, including eight petitions for rulemaking and four National Transportation Safety Board recommendations.

The recommendations include enhanced tank head and shell puncture resistance systems as well as top fittings protection that exceed current requirements for DOT 111 tank cars, a type of nonpressure tank car commonly used in North America, the US Department of Transportation agency said.

These steps reflect recommendations from NTSB investigations, while PHMSA has already addressed a fifth recommendation with the issuance of an advisory bulletin regarding the protection of pipeline facilities near railways, it indicated.

“Now is the time to make sure safety regulations are robust enough for the increased [hazardous materials] movement on our rails, roads and in our pipelines,” PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman said. “This proposal is the vehicle for collecting and sharing the best ideas. Rail safety is a national priority, and I encourage everyone to participate and be part of the solution.”

Visited Bakken

Quarterman recently visited the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota and Montana, where she observed rail operations and the application of DOT regulations in an area where oil and gas production has doubled in the past three years. Activity there is having a significant impact on the nation’s transportation system as operators move the high-quality crude on trains, trucks, and pipelines to locations throughout the US and Canada, according to PHMSA.

The Federal Railroad Administration, another DOT agency that enforces the rail safety requirements PHMSA develops for hazardous materials, issued an emergency order and safety advisory Aug. 2 in response to the Lac-Megantic accident. The order, which all US railroads had to implement within 30 days, stated no train or vehicles carrying specified hazardous materials can be left unattended on a mainline or side track outside a yard or terminal unless specifically authorized.

It also said all employees responsible for securing such trains or vehicles must let dispatchers know the number of hand brakes applied, the train or vehicle’s tonnage and length, the track’s grade and terrain features, any relevant weather conditions, and the type of equipment being secured.

A dispatcher or other qualified railroad employee will have to verify that the securement meets the railroad’s requirements, FRA’s order said. The safety advisory, which it issued along with PHMSA, outlined additional recommendations.

When FRA held a public hearing Aug. 28 on issues arising from the Lac-Megantic accident, witnesses representing US chemical manufacturers said it is equally important to address accident prevention and response as it is to consider redesigning rail tanker cars.

But another speaker urged US President Barack Obama to fully use his executive authority to make rail shippers of crude oil and other hazardous materials disclose cargoes’ volumes and chemical properties, and use routes that avoid populated areas.

Contact Nick Snow at

Related Articles

PHMSA proposes pipeline accident notification regulations

07/02/2015 The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has proposed new federal oil and gas pipeline accident and notification regulations. ...

FourPoint Energy to acquire Anadarko basin assets from Chesapeake

07/02/2015 FourPoint Energy LLC, a privately owned Denver company, plans to acquire oil and gas assets from Chesapeake Energy Corp. subsidiaries Chesapeake Ex...

Puma Energy completes purchase of Murco’s UK refinery, terminals

07/02/2015 Singapore-based Puma Energy Group Pte. has completed its purchase of UK midstream and downstream assets from Murco Petroleum Ltd., a subsidiary of ...

BP to settle federal, state Deepwater Horizon claims for $18.7 billion

07/02/2015 BP Exploration & Production Inc. has agreed in principle to settle all federal and state claims arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon inciden...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX oil prices plummet on crude inventory build, Iran deadline extension

07/02/2015 Oil prices plummeted more than $2/bbl July 1 to settle at a 2-month low on the New York market after a weekly government report showed the first ri...

API to issue recommended practice to address pipeline safety

07/01/2015 The American Petroleum Institute expects to issue a new recommended practice in another few weeks that addresses pipeline safety issues, but the tr...

Shell Midstream Partners takes interest in Poseidon oil pipeline

07/01/2015 Shell Midstream Partners LP has completed its acquisition of 36% equity interest in Poseidon Oil Pipeline Co. LLC from Equilon Enterprises LLC, a s...

MARKET WATCH: Oil prices decline as US crude inventories post first gain in 9 weeks

07/01/2015 Oil prices on July 1 surrendered much of their gains from the day before after the release of a government report showing the first rise in US crud...

FWS issues Shell letter of authorization on Chukchi Sea lease

07/01/2015 The US Fish & Wildlife Service issued Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc. a letter of authorization (LOA) related to the potential disturbance of polar b...
White Papers

Definitive Guide to Cybersecurity for the Oil & Gas Industry

In the Oil and Gas industry, there is no single adversary and no single threat to the information tech...

UAS Integration for Infrastructure: More than Just Flying

Oil and gas companies recognize the benefits that the use of drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) c...

Solutions to Financial Distress Resulting from a Weak Oil and Gas Price Environment

The oil and gas industry is in the midst of a prolonged worldwide downturn in commodity prices. While ...
Sponsored by

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts

Better Data, Better Analytics, Better Decisions

When Tue, Oct 27, 2015

The Oil & Gas industry has large amounts of data stored in multiple systems which are purpose built for certain tasks. However, good decisions require insights based upon the data in all of these systems. These systems in turn do not talk to each other. So the process of analyzing data, gaining insights, and making decisions is a slow one and often a flawed one. Good decisions require accurate analytics and accurate analytics require superior/sustainable data quality and governance. This webinar focuses on:

  • The importance of data quality and governance
  • How technological advances are making data quality and governance sustainable in order to get the accurate analytics to make solid decisions.

Please join us for this webcast sponsored by Seven Lakes Technologies and Noah Consulting.


Operating a Sustainable Oil & Gas Supply Chain in North America

When Tue, Oct 20, 2015

Short lead times and unpredictable conditions in the Oil & Gas industry can create costly challenges in supply chains. By implementing a LEAN culture of continuous improvement you can eliminate waste, increase productivity and gain end-to-end visibility leading to a sustainable and well-oiled supply chain.

Please join us for this webcast sponsored by Ryder System, Inc.


On Demand

Leveraging technology to improve safety & reliability

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

Attend this informative webinar to learn more about how to leverage technology to meet the new OSHA standards and protect your employees from the hazards of arc flash explosions.


The Resilient Oilfield in the Internet of Things World

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

As we hear about the hype surrounding the Internet of Things, the oil and gas industry is questioning what is different than what is already being done. What is new?  Using sensors and connecting devices is nothing new to our mode of business and in many ways the industry exemplifies many principles of an industrial internet of things. How does the Internet of Things impact the oil and gas industry?

Prolific instrumentation and automation digitized the industry and has changed the approach to business models calling for a systems led approach.  Resilient Systems have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining their central purpose.  A resilient system, such as Maximo, allows an asset intensive organization to leverage connected devices by merging real-time asset information with other critical asset information and using that information to create a more agile organization.  

Join this webcast, sponsored by IBM, to learn how about Internet of Things capabilities and resilient systems are impacting the landscape of the oil and gas industry.


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!


Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected