Today, May 8, 2015, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration published a final rule for rail transport of crude oil in the Federal Register. These rules come after several high-profile oil train derailments, including one recently in North Dakota that caused the evacuation of a nearby town.
The final rule applies to “high-hazard flammable trains,” defined as trains with a continuous block of 20 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid or 35 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid dispersed through a train. The final rule regulates: (1) tank car design standards, (2) braking systems, (3) speed restrictions, (4) routing restrictions, (5) classifications of unrefined petroleum-based products, and (6) notification requirements.
Tank Car Design
New tank cars constructed after October 1, 2015 are required to meet new design criteria. Tank cars must be constructed with 9/16 inch steel walls and a head shield with a minimum thickness of 1/2 inch. The entire protection system must be covered with a metal jacket of at least 11 gauge steel. Tank cars must also include improved pressure relief valves and bottom outlet valves. All existing tanks must be retrofitted according to a risk based schedule in the next three to five years.
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