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Safety Recommendation R-15-014
Details
Synopsis: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) urges the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to take action on the safety recommendations issued in this letter. These recommendations are derived from the NTSB’s examination of damaged tank cars following the February 16, 2015, derailment of a CSX Transportation crude oil unit train in Mount Carbon, West Virginia, as well as a review of data collected from accidents that occurred in Gogama, Ontario, on February 14, 2015; Galena, Illinois, on March 5, 2015; and Gogama, Ontario, on March 7, 2015.Theserecommendationsaddressthe retrofitting of thermal protection systems for Department of Transportation (DOT) specification DOT-111 tank cars used to transport Class 3 flammable liquids. Based on the unacceptable performance of bare steel tank cars as evidenced in the four accidents listed above, the NTSB is issuing four safety recommendations to PHMSA.
Recommendation: TO THE PIPELINE AND HAZARDOUS MATERIALS SAFETY ADMINISTRATION: Require that all new and existing tank cars used to transport all Class 3 flammable liquids be equipped with thermal protection systems that meet or exceed the thermal performance standards outlined in Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations 179.18(a) and are appropriately qualified for the tank car configuration and the commodity transported. (Urgent)
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Mode: Railroad
Location: Mount Carbon, WV, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA15FR005
Accident Reports:
Report #: None
Accident Date: 2/16/2015
Issue Date: 4/6/2015
Date Closed: 3/9/2017
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: PHMSA (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Keyword(s): Hazmat

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: PHMSA
Date: 3/9/2017
Response: From the Railroad Accident Brief (RAB-17-03) "BNSF Railway Train Derailment and Subsequent Train Collision, Release of Hazardous Materials, and Fire Casselton, North Dakota." Accident date 12/30/2013. Report release date 3/9/2017. The NTSB has investigated other crude oil train derailments in addition to the Casselton accident, including one in Mount Carbon, West Virginia, on February 16, 2015. Similar to Casselton, derailed tank cars transporting crude oil were breached and released product, which created pool fires that resulted in thermal tears in adjacent tank cars and the release of more crude oil that fed the pool fires. Neither the DOT-111 tank cars nor those manufactured to the CPC-1232 standard were required to be equipped with thermal protection systems to protect the tanks from exposure to pool or torch fire conditions that can occur in accidents.45 When a bare steel tank car filled with flammable liquids is exposed to a large pool fire or torch fire, the internal pressure of the tank increases and the strength of the tank decreases, which can result in tank failure from a thermal tear in the tank. The NTSB issued urgent Safety Recommendations R-15-14 through -17 on April 6, 2015, after the February 16, 2015, derailment of a CSX Transportation crude oil unit train in Mount Carbon, West Virginia, and other similar accidents.46 These recommendations urged PHMSA to take action to expeditiously improve the thermal performance of tank cars used to transport flammable liquids. Contrary to NTSB safety recommendations R-15-14 and -15, PHMSA’s final rule, HM-251, did not require thermal protection systems for all tank cars used to transport Class 3 flammable liquids. Rather, PHMSA mandated thermal protection systems only for higher risk HHFT configurations because the regulatory impact analysis did not support extending this requirement to all tank cars configured in any type of train. Section 7304 of the FAST Act requires that all tank cars used to transport any Class 3 flammable liquids shall meet the DOT-117, DOT-117P, or DOT-117R specifications in 49 CFR Part 179, regardless of train composition.48 The FAST Act kept an implementation schedule for continued use of tank cars in crude oil and ethanol service similar to that provided in the PHMSA rule, requiring full DOT-117 compliance by May 1, 2025. However, the FAST Act also requires retrofitting or removing from service tank cars transporting other Class 3 flammable liquids in Packing Group I by May 1, 2025, and in Packing Groups II and III by May 1, 2029. Section 7305 of the FAST Act further directs the Secretary of Transportation to issue within 180 days regulations that require that each tank car built to meet the DOT-117 specifications, and each nonjacketed tank car modified to meet DOT-117 specifications, be equipped with an insulating blanket of DOT-approved material at least 1/2 inch thick. The NTSB is concerned that Section 7305 does not include a thermal blanket requirement for existing jacketed tank cars, nor does the Act specify other measures that may be required to ensure these tank cars perform adequately in pool fires or torch fires. On July 13, 2016, the NTSB hosted a roundtable discussion on rail tank car safety.49 The Railway Supply Institute (RSI) Vice Chairman of the Committee on Tank Cars was asked about his February 2016 request that the FRA and PHMSA approve the use of fiberglass insulation as part of a thermal protection system for the existing jacketed and insulated CPC-1232 and legacy DOT-111 tank cars that will be modified for continued use in Class 3 flammable liquids service. He responded— Based on our modeling, and some research done by the FRA on fiberglass insulation systems, the existence of a jacket and insulation … meets the federal pool fire requirement, and so it would perform per the federal requirement as a thermal protection system, even though it’s not listed as … an approved thermal-blanket-type material.50 The FRA and PHMSA reviewed the RSI analysis and determined the jacket and fiberglass insulation is sufficient thermal protection.51 The FRA and PHMSA also determined that approval for car usage in flammable liquid service is not required as long as the performance-based requirements of 49 CFR 179.18 are met. While the RSI modeling suggests that fiberglass insulation could allow jacketed and insulated tank cars to meet federal minimum thermal protection standards, the NTSB believes the available circumstantial thermal performance evidence for these tank cars is not compelling since there is little data to suggest a significant number of these cars have been thermally challenged in pool fires. Although insulation moderates the temperature of the lading during transportation, it is not intended to protect lading from external fires. Fiberglass insulation disintegrates at high temperatures typically found in pool fires and torch fires. Therefore, the NTSB will continue to monitor and investigate occurrences that may yield further evidence about the performance of jacketed and insulated tank cars transporting flammable liquids. Comments at the roundtable discussion by the RSI Vice Chairman of the Committee on Tank Cars and other industry representatives further suggest that the viability of retrofitting legacy DOT-111 tank cars, similar to the tank cars that were involved in this accident, has diminished with the decreased demand for these tank cars to service the crude-by-rail market. The industry representatives remarked that shippers would likely focus their retrofitting efforts on the more robust CPC-1232 tank cars, while legacy DOT-111 tank cars would ultimately be retired from flammable liquids service. On August 15, 2016, PHMSA issued final rule HM-251C, Hazardous Materials: FAST Act Requirements for Flammable Liquids and Rail Tank Cars.52 The new PHMSA regulations address the applicability of thermal protection requirements to all tank cars used to transport Class 3 flammable liquids, whether or not they are operated in a HHFT. In accordance with the FAST Act mandate, the new PHMSA regulations require a thermal protection blanket of at least 1/2-inch-thick material on tank cars built to meet the DOT-117 standard and nonjacketed DOT-117R tank cars. Although questions remain about the suitability of allowing the continued use of existing jacketed tank cars without further modifications to the tanks, the provisions of PHMSA final rule HM-251C discussed above have sufficiently implemented the recommended actions. Safety Recommendations R-15-14 and -15 were classified “Open—Acceptable Response” on July 12, 2016. PHMSA issued the final rule on August 15, 2016; therefore the NTSB reclassifies Safety Recommendations R-15-14 and -15 CLOSED—ACCEPTABLE ACTION.

From: PHMSA
To: NTSB
Date: 11/9/2016
Response: -From Marie Therese Dominguez, Administrator: In your letter of July 12, 2016, NTSB urged PHMSA to extend the requirement for thermal protection systems to all tank cars in Class 3 flammable liquids service, regardless of the type of train operation. Furthermore, NTSB urged PHMSA to issue thermal protection regulations in accordance with the FAST Act that would require thermal blankets capable of providing protection from pool fires and torch fires consistent with § 179 .18(c) of the HMR. The NTSB also noted, in accordance with Section 7305 of the FAST Act, that each tank car built to meet the DOT Specification 117 (DOT -117) and each non-jacketed tank car modified to meet DOT-117R must be equipped with a thermal blanket with at least V2-inch-thick material. The NTSB further voiced its concern regarding the current pace of the retrofit and replacement of DOT-111 tank cars and urged PHMSA to establish a clear set of intermediate metrics to better evaluate the safety improvement progress. On August 15,2016, PHMSA published a final rule titled, "Hazardous Materials: FAST Act Requirements for Flammable Liquids and Rail Tank Cars," in the Federal Register [81 FR 53 93 5]. The final rule codifies certain mandates and minimum requirements of the FAST Act. Specifically, the final rule codifies the following: (1) a revised phase-out schedule for all ·. DOT -111 tank cars used to transport Class 3 flammable liquids broken into categories of unrefined petroleum products (e.g., petroleum crude oil), ethanol, and "other" Class 3 flammable liquids; (2) the mandate that each tank car built to DOT -117 and each non-jacketed tank car retrofitted to DOT -117R be equipped with a thermal protection blanket that is at least ½ inch thick and meets existing thermal protection standards; and (3) the minimum requirements for top fittings protection on tank cars retrofitted to DOT -117R. PHMSA believes the FAST Act and the conforming final rule satisfy the intent of Safety Recommendations R-15-14 through R-15-17. The FAST Act limits PHMSA's ability to withdraw, change, or revise the mandated amendments. While the phase out schedule for DOT -111 tank cars may not be as aggressive as NTSB desires, the deadlines represent the absolute last moment to meet the new standards. We encourage industry to phase out these tank cars ahead of the scheduled deadlines. Section 7308 of the FAST Act further requires the collection and reporting of two data sets related to the retrofit and replacement of tank cars used in the flammable liquid service fleet. The first data set is retrospective in nature and requires DOT to collect information on the number of tank cars modified to meet the DOT -117R; the number of tank cars built to meet the DOT -117; and the number of tank cars used or likely to be used to transport Class 3 flammable liquids that have not been modified. In addition, the FAST Act requires collection of a second data set pertaining to future industry capacity projections. Specifically, DOT is required to conduct a survey of rail tank car facilities to determine statistically-valid estimates of the number of tank cars those facilities expect to process to meet the DOT -117R or DOT -117 demand in a given year. The DOT is working with rail industry and tank car facilities, respectively, to develop reporting mechanisms to monitor progress. AAR has agreed to cooperate and is currently compiling retrospective data to be provided to DOT. In accordance with Section 7308(t) of the FAST Act, DOT will provide to Congress an annual, written report covering both data sets.

From: NTSB
To: PHMSA
Date: 7/12/2016
Response: We are aware that, on June 12, 2015, the AAR filed an appeal of PHMSA’s final rule, stating that PHMSA should have required enhanced thermal protection systems significantly exceeding the performance standards stated in section 179.18(a) for tank cars transporting flammable liquids (100 minutes in a pool fire/60 minutes in a torch fire). The AAR pointed out that these are minimum standards originally developed for tank cars transporting flammable liquefied compressed gases. The AAR further stated that the Railway Safety Institute (RSI) tank car safety project modeled the survivability of different tank car configurations in a pool fire using the Analysis of Fire Effects on Tank Cars model, which showed that the use of thermal blankets on flammable liquid tank cars results in the tank car withstanding a pool fire for hours, or in some situations indefinitely, without product release, except through the pressure relief device. The appeal further stated that, although widespread support existed for such enhanced thermal protection standards, PHMSA had not incorporated them into the new rule. On November 18, 2015, PHMSA published a response to appeals of its final rule HM 251. PHMSA denied the AAR appeal regarding thermal protection systems because it did not contain a compelling basis for amending the rule. However, section 7305 of the FAST Act directs the DOT secretary to issue regulations within 1 year requiring that each tank car built to meet the DOT-117 specification and each nonjacketed tank car modified to meet the DOT-117 specification also be equipped with an insulating blanket with at least 1/2-inch thick, DOT approved material. We note that PHMSA did not apply thermal protection system requirements to all tank cars used to transport Class 3 flammable liquids as recommended by R-15-14, but instead mandated thermal protection systems to higher risk HHFT configurations because the regulatory impact analysis did not support extending this requirement to all tank cars configured in any type of train. However, section 7304 of the FAST Act requires that all tank cars used to transport any Class 3 flammable liquid shall meet the DOT-117, DOT-117P, or DOT-117R specifications in 49 CFR Part 179, regardless of train composition. The FAST Act mandates a commodity-based implementation schedule for continued use of tank cars in crude oil and ethanol service rather than a PG-based approach, as was provided in the PHMSA rule. The FAST Act requires the crude oil and ethanol fleets to be fully DOT-117 compliant by May 1, 2025. The FAST Act further requires that tank cars transporting other Class 3 flammable materials must be retrofitted or removed from service by May 1, 2025 (PG I), and by May 1, 2029 (PGs II and III). We urge PHMSA to extend the requirement for thermal protection systems to all tank cars in Class 3 flammable liquids service, regardless of whether they are operated in an HHFT. Furthermore, we urge PHMSA to issue thermal protection regulations in accordance with the FAST Act that would require thermal blankets capable of providing protection from pool fires and torch fires that significantly exceed the current performance standard required by 49 CFR 179.18(a). We are aware that you are drafting regulations associated with passage of the FAST Act, and we hope that our concerns, detailed above, will be addressed in these pending regulations. Pending issuance of final rules that adequately address these concerns, Safety Recommendation R-15-14 is classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: PHMSA
To: NTSB
Date: 5/4/2015
Response: -From Timothy P. Butters, Deputy Administrator: This letter responds to the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) April 3, 2015, letter urging the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to take action on new Safety Recommendations concerning rail transportation of Class 3 flammable liquids. These new Safety Recommendations, R-15-14 through R-15-17, resulted from the NTSB’s examination of damaged tank cars following the February 16, 2015, derailment of a CSX Transportation crude oil unit train in Mount Carbon, West Virginia, as well as a review of data collected from several other crude oil unit train accidents occurring in the same timeframe. These Safety Recommendations address the retrofit of Specification DOT-111 tank cars with thermal protection systems that are used to transport Class 3 flammable liquids (hereafter referred to as “flammable liquid”). We thank the NTSB for its vigilance on this transportation safety issue and its continued investigative efforts to improve rail transportation safety for crude oil, ethanol, and other flammable liquids. We share your commitment to enhancing the safety of rail transportation, and are pleased to inform you that Secretary Anthony R. Foxx has signed and announced a final rule entitled “Hazardous Materials: Enhanced Tank Car Standards and Operational Controls for High-Hazard Flammable Trains” (HM-251). Pending publication of the final rule in the Federal Register, we posted the signed version at our website homepage for public viewing. This rule focuses on prevention, mitigation, and response, to manage and reduce the risk posed by the transportation of flammable liquids by rail tank car. Through tremendous collaborative efforts with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), we established a comprehensive solution designed to reduce the probability and minimize the consequences of an accident. We have adopted risk mitigation requirements that address braking, classification, operating speeds, and routing to reduce the probability of accidents. Finally, we adopted enhanced design and performance standards for rail tank cars in flammable liquid service to minimize the consequence of an accident. The required safety measures and the timeline for phase-out and retrofit of legacy tank cars used in high-hazard flammable train (HHFT)a service will strike a balance between the safety needs of rail transportation of flammable liquids and the economic viability of the rail industry. Upon consideration of shop capacity, the comments received on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), and the potential impacts associated with the retrofit schedule, PHMSA recognizes the need to upgrade the rail car fleet, but finds that a targeted phase-out of the DOT-111 tank cars is the most prudent and protective approach. We concur with these recommendations, and our rulemaking will implement them in many situations identified by the NTSB. As discussed in our August 1, 2014 NPRM, thermal protection systems do increase tank car protection in a pool fire environment such that it can delay, or even prevent, thermal ruptures caused by extreme heat, increasing internal tank pressure, and tank wall thinning. Further, appropriately sized pressure relief devices (PRDs) also provide safety benefits by allowing for sufficient release of pressure under fire conditions. A thermal protection system serves to prolong the survivability of a tank exposed to a pool or torch fire by limiting the heat flux into the tank and its lading, thereby delaying the increase in pressure in the tank exceeding the start-to-discharge pressure of the PRD. If a PRD on a tank car exposed to a pool fire is under the liquid level of the tank, the thermal protection system will help delay the release of the lading through the PRD. Based on the results of simulations, an approved thermal protection system delays rupture of a tank until most of the lading has been expelled through the PRD and lessens the energy available if a rupture were to occur. Therefore, consistent with NTSB’s recommendation, PHMSA has adopted thermal protection system requirements, as specified in 49 CFR 179.18, to include a reclosing PRD conforming to 49 CFR 173.31(b)(2), for new tank cars (i.e., DOT-117s) constructed after October 1, 2015, and to be used in flammable liquid service as part of a HHFT. In addition, we have adopted the same requirements for retrofit of existing DOT-111 and CPC-1232 tank cars to ensure all existing tank cars used in a HHFT are equipped with a thermal protection system and appropriately sized PRDs. When combined with the enhanced design and performance criteria (e.g., head shields, jackets) also adopted for DOT-117 tank cars and retrofit tanks cars (i.e., DOT-117Rs), we believe our actions in the final rule are sufficiently “robust” to account for variables such as damage that may occur under accident conditions. However, our approach differs from the NTSB’s recommendation in that the thermal protection system requirement is justified only for higher risk train configurations. Our regulatory impact analysis does not support extending this requirement to all tank cars configured in any type of train. PHMSA and FRA do not intend to impose thermal protection system performance standards on lower risk, “manifest” trains. Our objective has been to address the higher risk HHFT configurations as reflected in the series of unit train derailment accidents that have resulted in these and other recommendations. Additionally, based on stakeholder comment to our proposed rule and our regulatory impact analysis, requiring thermal protection system performance standards for every tank car loaded with flammable liquid would be overly burdensome, particularly for small entities, and would not yield sufficient safety benefits relative to the cost of retrofitting existing tank cars to meet such a requirement. Therefore, in an effort to provide regulatory flexibility, maximize safety benefits, and limit cost impacts, we have excluded lower risk, “manifest” train configurations, by applying the thermal protection system requirements (including PRDs) to tank cars used as part of a HHFT, as described in the footnote below.