What is DOT-111?
DOT-111 is a specification for a non-pressurized rail tank car used in the U.S. In Canada they are called “CTC-111A”.
What do they carry?
They carry a wide range of hazardous and non-hazardous materials.
How many are there?
Approximately 272,000 DOT-111’s are in the North American fleet.
How many carry hazardous materials?
Approximately 171,000 carry hazmat. Out of that approximately 92,000 carry flammable liquids such as crude oil and ethanol. According to the Association of American Railroads, only 14,000 are built to the latest safety standards that carry crude oil or ethanol.
How many gallons does a tank car hold?
20,000 – 30,000 gallons.
What makes these 78,000 tankers so unsafe?
- Thin skins. Upon derailment, the tanks quite often rupture causing massive spills and explosions.
- No head shields. Shields at both ends of the tank car would help prevent puncturing from collisions with adjacent rail cars.
- Not enough protection for fittings and valves. Tank cars have fittings and valves that have just a thin shield around them. Quite often in derailments, these fittings and valves are sheered off.
- No PRD’s – Pressure Relief Devices to prevent BLEVEs. (Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion)
Is there anything unique about Bakken Crude Oil carried by these tank cars?
It has become apparent after some recent disasters that Bakken Crude Oil is more volatile than other crude oil. A safety alert issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation highlights this. In the alert, they state that Bakken’s light, sweet crude oil may be different from traditional heavy crudes and it ignites at much lower temperatures.
How can I identify if a tank car is carrying crude oil?
What is a unit train?
A unit train (sometimes called a block train) is a train hauling freight of the same type. These are shipped to the same destination without being split. Recently the number of unit trains carrying Bakken Crude oil in DOT-111 tank cars have increased exponentially along the rail-lines leading out of North Dakota.
What about the Keystone Pipeline? If it were built, wouldn’t that end the transport of oil by rail?
The Keystone Pipeline if it were built would have a maximum transport capability of 830,000 barrels per day. By the end of 2014, it is projected that 2 million barrels of oil per day will be transported by rail out of the Bakken region. Even if construction were to begin in 2014, the output of the Bakken region would far exceed what the pipeline will be able to handle.
If it were possible to send all the oil through a pipeline, there would still be a need to send oil via rail. Oil by rail can go to many more facilities than a pipeline can. The bottom line is that for the foreseeable future, oil by rail is here to stay.
What is CPC-1232?
CPC stands for Casualty Prevention Circular. The AAR (Association of American Railroads) issued Circular letter CPC-1232 which specifies new rail tank cars standards for transporting crude oil or ethanol. As of October 10, 2011, new tank cars built for transporting crude oil and ethanol comply with these new specifications:
- Half-Height Head Sheilds
- Thicker tank and head material
- Normalized steel
- Top fitting protection
- Pressure Relief Device(recloseable type)
What is a BLEVE?
BLEVE stands for Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion. The huge fireballs seen in Castleton, ND were due to oil tank cars that began to boil causing a BLEVE.