The wait for a new tank car specification is over. Now comes the “fun” part: Retrofits to older cars, and potentially onerous operating rules.
Prospects for the contentious Keystone XL pipeline proposed to connect Alberta’s northern tar sands with U.S. Gulf Coast refiners has endured another brutal body check, this time from the home team. The province’s brand-new, left-leaning government elected May 5 says it will cease its predecessor’s long campaign of supplicating and bullying President Barack Obama for the pipeline’s approval.
The final spec for the now-official DOT-117 (TC-117 in Canada) non-pressurized tank car adopts the most demanding of the technical requirements first offered for comment in the notice of rulemaking: jacketed and thermally insulated shells of 9/16-inch steel, full-height half-inch-thick head shields, sturdier, re-closeable pressure relief valves and rollover protection for top fittings.
How crude oil sloshing inside moving tank cars affects train stability was under close scrutiny by the Federal Railroad Administration, the regulator’s Acting Administrator told reporters back on March 13. That was after a string of mid-winter oil train disasters exposed the prevailing focus on tank car thickness to be essentially pointless in the quest to prevent oil train derailments and explosions.
Transport Canada's selection March 11, 2015 of new tank car specifications is surely a harbinger of the choice the White House will make later this spring from among the options proposed by U.S. rail and hazmat regulators.