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TSB assesses damage from crude oil train derailment


February 24, 2015   by Canadian Underwriter


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The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has conducted a preliminary damage assessment of the derailed tank cars in a Feb. 14 accident involving a Canadian National Railway train which resulted in the spill of an estimated million litres of petroleum product in northern Ontario.

That day, the CN train carrying crude oil was heading eastbound near Gogama, hauling 100 Class 111 tank cars, 68 loaded with petroleum crude oil and 32 loaded with petroleum distillates, said a statement from the TSB. At about 11:50 p.m., while travelling at about 38 miles per hour (mph), the train crew observed a fire about 10 cars behind the locomotives, so they detached the locomotives from the train. “Initial impressions are that the Class 111 tank cars… performed similarly to those involved in the Lac-Mégantic accident, which occurred at 65 mph.”

This Feb. 16, 2015 photo provided by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada shows a ruptured tank car on fire after a crude oil train derailment south of south of Timmins, Ontario. An investigation into the recent derailment in Ontario of a freight train carrying crude oil suggests new safety standards introduced after the Lac-Megantic, Que., tragedy are inadequate, Canada's transport investigator said Monday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Transportation Safety Board of Canada

The TSB was referring to the July 6, 2013 derailment of 63 crude oil tanker cars on a Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) train that resulted in 63 deaths in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

In its report on the recent Gogama derailment, TSB reported that a preliminary damage assessment of all derailed tank cars found that all of the Class 111 tank cars were constructed in the last three years, and were compliant with the industry’s CPC-1232 standard. “In comparison with the other general service ‘legacy’ Class 111 tank cars, these cars have some enhancements, which include half-head shields, improved top and bottom fitting protection and normalized steel,” the TSB said in a statement.

In particular, two tank cars at the head-end of the derailment sustained minor damage, while two tanks cars at the tail-end received no damage. The remaining 25 derailed tank cars received more significant damage. “At least 19 of the 25 tank cars were breached or partially breached and released various amounts of product,” the statement noted. “It is estimated that a total of over one million litres of product was released, either to the atmosphere or to the ground. The amount of product released will be determined more precisely as site mitigation and clean-up continue.

Site examination determined that the seventh to the 35th cars behind the locomotives had derailed. A total of 21 cars sustained fire damage ranging from minor to severe and about 900 feet of track was destroyed.

The issue of transportation of flammable liquids by rail has been identified as one of the key risks to Canada’s transportation system. “The board called for tougher standards for all Class 111 tank cars, not just new ones, to reduce the likelihood of product release during accidents,” the statement said. “In Lac-Mégantic, investigators found that even at lower speeds, the unprotected Class 111 tank cars ruptured, releasing crude oil which fuelled the fire. As such, until a more robust tank car standard with enhanced protection is implemented for North America, the risk will remain.”

On Friday, federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt introduced the Safe and Accountable Rail Act in the House of Commons.

Related: Ottawa proposes new insurance requirements for railways hauling crude oil, toxic inhalation hazards

“The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) will assign legislated minimum levels of insurance to railways based on the type and volume of dangerous goods they transport,” Transport Canada said at the time. “Railways will have to demonstrate coverage before the CTA would issue the Certificate of Fitness they need to operate.”

Currently, railways regulated federally are not required to have a specific dollar value of liability insurance limits.

Photo Above: This Feb. 16, 2015 photo provided by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada shows a ruptured tank car on fire after a crude oil train derailment south of south of Timmins, Ontario. An investigation into the recent derailment in Ontario of a freight train carrying crude oil suggests new safety standards introduced after the Lac-Megantic, Que., tragedy are inadequate, Canada’s transport investigator said Monday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Transportation Safety Board of Canada