During a recent conference call with Gov. Dalrymple, BNSF Railway Executive Chairman Matt Rose outlined the company’s plans to implement additional measures for improved rail safety. Late today, BNSF informed its customers about the railway’s additional safety measures, which include:
· New operating procedures for trains that carry crude oil, including reduced speed requirements.
· Work with BNSF customers to remove all DOT-111 tank cars from crude oil service.
· Enhancements to the company’s railcar electronic monitoring program..
· Increased track inspections.
“Railroad operations, equipment and maintenance are critical elements in our overall goal to improve rail safety, and I commend BNSF for taking these significant steps,” Dalrymple said. “At the same time, we must move forward on other important aspects of rail safety including the need for new federal tank car standards and greater pipeline capacity. BNSF on Wednesday began requiring that its crude oil trains reduce speed to 35 miles per hour through all communities of 100,000 residents or more. The railway announced that it will work with its customers to transition all DOT 111 tank cars from crude oil service within a year. The older-model tank cars will be replaced with next-generation tank cars and CPC 1232 tank cars modified to meet pending changes in federal safety standards. PHMSA originally planned to issue new tank car safety standards and regulations for the phase out of older tank cars in March. The new standards and phase-out requirements are now expected to be issued in May. During a conference call last week, Dalrymple urged U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to issue new tank car construction standards as soon as possible.
Additionally, BNSF will enhance its electronic monitoring program to more quickly identify tank cars that may need repairs. Rose said any tank cars flagged by electronic monitors for possible defects will be taken out of service immediately.In ongoing discussions with Rose and other BNSF officials, Dalrymple has urged them to adopt new operating procedures for improved rail safety and to enhance rail and tank car maintenance programs. BNSF officials have said the railroad will invest more than $335 million on track maintenance and capital improvement projects in North Dakota this year.Last week, Dalrymple told Secretary Foxx that new tank car safety standards should prioritize the installation of high-capacity relief valves to improve the release of vapor pressures when excessive heat is present. Existing tank cars that can be retrofitted should also be equipped with the improved relief valves as well as other safety improvements, Dalrymple said.
The governor told Foxx that interstate pipelines offer the safest mode of transporting crude oil to market, and he briefed the secretary on the progress of three important pipeline projects that have the collective daily capacity to ship 895,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil to national markets.
Dalrymple and the Public Service Commission also have proposed establishing a state-run railroad safety program as well as a pipeline integrity program that would complement federal oversight in North Dakota. The proposal calls for about $1.4 million in state funding for three positions to enhance railroad track inspections in North Dakota and another three positions for stepped-up inspections of pipelines that transport crude oil and other liquids to market.
Other action taken by the state to improve rail safety includes a state mandate to condition all crude oil produced in North Dakota. On Dec. 9, the Industrial Commission unanimously approved an order requiring all oil producers install and utilize oil-conditioning equipment to significantly reduce the volatility of Bakken crude oil. The order includes strict parameters for temperatures and pressures under which the equipment must operate to ensure that light hydrocarbons are removed before oil is shipped to market. The conditioning order brings every barrel of North Dakota crude oil within a set standard, requiring oil be stabilized so that its vapor pressure is no greater than 13.7 pounds per square inch (psi) before shipment.
North Dakota’s vapor pressure standard for oil is more stringent than the national standard developed by the American National Standards Institute and the American Petroleum Institute, which established that crude oil is stable at a vapor pressure of 14.7 psi. The order requires that oil producers install and utilize conditioning equipment by April 1. The Industrial Commission approved the oil-condition order after holding a public hearing and providing for an extended public comment period. Additionally, several state agencies are studying a wide range of current rail safety issues in North Dakota, including a comprehensive assessment of the state's overall rail system, railroad crossing safety, train speeds and emergency preparedness