2 train Collision at Casselton ND

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Re: 2 train Collision at Casselton ND

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Tue Dec 31, 2013 4:52 pm

Based upon the Reuters report, I surmised that Casselton was a 'rerun of Red Oak' where one train rear-ended another resulting in crew fatalities. In that incident it certainly appears a PTC system could have avoided such from occurring.

However, based upon the BNSF statement, it now appears that PTC would have had no effect upon Casselton.

But what is troubling is that for all the ways that Megantic could be dismissed - it was hot; the road was such a shoestring operation they had no business handling crude - but the stuff has now gone BOOM on a well-managed, well-maintained Class I property with operations under US jurisdiction - and in frigid cold weather. It appears that additional operating practices beyond those relating to the tie-down of unattended trains, will have to be reviewed and delineated Rules will have to be promulgated to cover any revisions.

Finally, at Casselton, let us all be thankful that there were no reported personal injuries, and that there are sufficient resources to satisfy any legitimate claimant.
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Re: 2 train Collision at Casselton ND

Postby Freddy » Tue Dec 31, 2013 5:48 pm

Might find out it was a rail that broke up under the grain train, when those cars started to turn over they hit the cars of oil and now they have what they have. Funny things happen to
rail when it gets cold, no matter how new it is or when it was laid.
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Re: 2 train Collision at Casselton ND

Postby jstolberg » Tue Dec 31, 2013 9:20 pm

sandyriverman wrote:7) Media sources have stated that this ND crude is as "volatile as gasoline" but that statement is crazy as it would not need the refining process if it was as they say. I have found, from reading, that this crude is somewhat lighter than most crude previously discovered. This would lead to increasing "volatility" for sure, but still not becoming the same as gasoline IMHO. It seems that new ways will have to be found to deal with the product, as best as we can, as the movement of oil by rail will continue in my way of thinking, and nobody can guarantee that this will be 'accident free".


"Volatile as gasoline" is not far off. Bakken crude is lighter than diesel fuel and lighter than jet fuel. Refiners often mix the crude with heavier crude from Mexico or Venezuela in order to produce diesel. Some oil workers have poured it in the tank of their diesel pickup trucks and driven them. But like anything extracted from the earth, it's dirty, so to reduce engine wear it does need to be refined.

The volatility issue does need to be addressed. Simpler minds will tend to lump Bakken crude by rail together with Canadian oil sands by rail, but they are very different. North Dakota oil from shale is very light and volatile. Canadian bitumen is thick and heavier than water. Rail will play a significant role in the transport of both products.

Rail will continue to carry crude oil from various sources because oil is no longer fungible. Until the last couple years oil pretty much fetched the same price everywhere in the world. A barrel of oil here was worth as much as a barrel there, so producers just had to get the product to market. It didn't matter much which market. But lately the price of oil in various locations around North America has decoupled. Oil in Houston is worth less than oil in Philadelphia or oil on the west coast. Oil in North Dakota is worth less than all three and oil in Alberta is lower-priced still.

Enter the railroads. Pipelines want producers to sign long term contracts (7 to 20 years). Railroads are happy to take your carloads in any direction you desire. In exchange for the flexibility, the railroads charge more, but right now most producers are willing to pay the freight to keep their options open. This is good, because oil is a high value, high velocity product which creates the cash flow and the incentive for railroads to improve their infrastructure to handle more trains at higher average speeds.

The economics favor pipelines over the long term; and while some pipelines may attract vocal opposition, others will get built without much notice. Over the long term, I expect pipelines to handle more of the north to south flow of oil while railroads continue to dominate oil transportation in the east-west direction. We're importing less and less oil from across the oceans in supertankers, so land-based transportation needs to make up the difference. And oil will make up for lost business carrying coal by carrying more drill pipe and frack sand.

Meanwhile, every day that the Keystone pipeline is delayed, the chief shareholder of BNSF gets richer. While Nebraska has now signed off on the Keystone XL, I do believe he still has some political friends in Washington.
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Re: 2 train Collision at Casselton ND

Postby Zeke » Tue Dec 31, 2013 9:27 pm

We will always have fiery wrecks from time to time as that is the nature of the business. I recall a number of spectacular propane derailment/explosions in the late 60's/early 70's taking out towns and railroad yards, not a word about banning such traffic from the rails. The media, as presently constituted, has a bias towards fossil fuel anything, hence the overkill when it comes to coverage. As Sandy river pointed out the carnage on the highways, ships will continue to sink, airliners will crash...... it just goes with the nature of transport on planet Earth. I am guessing a broken rail or a grain car defect like hot box, broken wheel caused this wreck. Most of the grain cars I see in the east here look like rusted, graffiti vandalized refugees from Soviet era Bulgaria. If inspection and maintenance is commiserate with appearance...yikes! BTW Sandy if you run for President you got my vote !
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Re: 2 train Collision at Casselton ND

Postby JayBee » Wed Jan 01, 2014 12:25 am

Further information Grain(Soybean) train was Westbound from Dilworth, MN to Minot, ND and was to take the Surrey cutoff(KO Subdivision) at KO Junction, just ahead. The Oil Train had originated at Freyberg, ND and was bound for Hayti, MO a Barge Transload. The Oil Train crew had originated at Mandan, ND and was bound for Dilworth, MN. Preliminary information has a single car of the Grain Train derailed and being dragged along, car was near the middle of the grain train. The car hit the locomotives of the Oil Train starting the derailment of the Oil Train. All the crewmembers survived. The two leading locomotives of the Oil Train were destroyed, and the NTSB doesn't think the Data Recorders survived. Fortunately the Windshield Cam on the leading locomotive uplinks its pictures to the BNSF Dispatch Center in near Real Time, and the NTSB was able to view what the Oil Train crew saw up to the point of impact. Also the Oil Train had a DPU locomotive on the rear which was undamaged and so they will be able to retrieve most of the data that they lost from the lead locomotives(but not bell and horn activations). They are also obtaining the readout from the Trackside Warning Detector that the Grain Train passed 4 miles previously, as well as the tape of the Radio Transmissions of the trains and the Dispatcher.
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Re: 2 train Collision at Casselton ND

Postby CPSK » Wed Jan 01, 2014 10:48 am

Wikipedia is really on the ball - the article on DOT 111 tank cars has already been updated to mention this latest accident.
Just a bit of speculation on my part:
Will the new specs for the 111 tank cars make them any safer in the event of a derailment? Are these tankers the same ones used to transport other fluids, such as ethanol?
Could there be a problem due to the weight of oil as compared to the weight of other materials transported in these cars? It would seem logical to think that 30,000 gallons of crude oil will weigh more than 30,000 gallons of ethanol for example. Perhaps the cars design is just not sufficient for the crude, and this heavier load is a factor in causing failures that result in derailment.

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Re: 2 train Collision at Casselton ND

Postby JimBoylan » Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:03 pm

JayBee wrote:Further information the Windshield Cam on the leading locomotive uplinks its pictures to the BNSF Dispatch Center in near Real Time, and the NTSB was able to view what the Oil Train crew saw up to the point of impact.
Has anyone yet hacked into the National Security Agency's intercept of that feed so that everyone else can see the shows?
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Re: 2 train Collision at Casselton ND

Postby Backshophoss » Wed Jan 01, 2014 10:26 pm

Lets wait for the NTSB to release that video! :wink:
To create a frame of reference on weights,this is what I found.
From the "Pocket Ref" 3rd edition,weight per cubic foot in pounds:
Crude oil-53.1lbs
Diesel fuel-52.1 lbs
Petroleum oil-55 lbs
Lube oil- 56.1 lbs
Alcohol,ethyl - 49 lbs

(with Thanks to the Mythbusters for pointing out this handy "little" book!! :-))
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Re: 2 train Collision at Casselton ND

Postby RDG467 » Thu Jan 02, 2014 8:58 am

CPSK wrote:Wikipedia is really on the ball - the article on DOT 111 tank cars has already been updated to mention this latest accident.
Just a bit of speculation on my part:
Will the new specs for the 111 tank cars make them any safer in the event of a derailment? Are these tankers the same ones used to transport other fluids, such as ethanol?
Could there be a problem due to the weight of oil as compared to the weight of other materials transported in these cars? It would seem logical to think that 30,000 gallons of crude oil will weigh more than 30,000 gallons of ethanol for example. Perhaps the cars design is just not sufficient for the crude, and this heavier load is a factor in causing failures that result in derailment.

CP


CP, the shells are 0.5 in steel, which is many times strong enough for any type of fluid that would be carried in those cars. Frt Cars (and indeed all engineered structures) are designed with a 'factor of safety', so the car could safely hold 4-5 times the weight of the lading w/o a shell failure. From what I've read on the DOT 111 cars, lack of head shields is the biggest factor affecting derailment safety, since a coupler shank or broken rail can puncture the end 'head' of the tank more easily. The shield is another piece of 0.5 in steel mounted vertically in front of each head (with some space between) that would take the brunt of the force and help protect the tank shell.
The other main issue was the mounting structure for the trucks, which creates a lot of stress on the underside of the tank in a derailment when the trucks don't separate from the car quickly enough. The trucks aren't secured to the car, but have a 'loose fit' bolster pin connection. If both trucks remain attached, you can get some pretty tremendous bending forces (imaging looking down at the car and watching it bend into a 'c' shape), which will rupture the tank on the convex side of the bend. An underframe **might** help this in certain situations, but would add weight and decrease the lading capacity. (you also get tremendous bending forces from the weight of the following cars when the slack runs in too abruptly.)

Re-engineering the cars at this point in their service lives would be very, very expensive, so the economical solution would be for new cars to incorporate more safety features and replace the old fleet. This takes many years, though, so a head shield retrofit might be called for. That also takes time and money- there are no quick and cheap answers to this issue......

Also, the unloading valves can get sheared off during a derailment if the handles are too strong. They're supposed to break away upon impact, leaving the valve closed, but some have not been doing that and they can remove the whole valve from the tank bottom upon impact with the ground or other cars.

I don't think anyone can say at this point how (or if) the derailed grain car impacted the first tank car, or if covered hoppers following the derailed one piled up after hitting the locomotives and then the tank cars plowed into that mess and hit a sharp edge of a car (or something).
I didn't look at the BNSF statement yet, but I'll check it after posting this.
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Re: 2 train Collision at Casselton ND

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Thu Jan 02, 2014 8:59 am

While no one wants incidents such as Casselton or Megantic to occur, it is incumbent upon the railroads and the safety agencies overseeing their operations to make these incidents 'learning experiences'. After all, as Mr. Zeke has immediately alliterated, hasn't it been said that Rules have a way of being written in blood?

The same thought applies equally to air and highway transport.

Now what I am going to have difficulty with is my Saturday morning coffee at the shop with its 'tables with a view' and its railroad motif. One lady noted to me, knowing that I am ex-railroad, shortly after Megantic and seeing a 'Train 1267' heading through town (actually a Westward MTY) was what is there to assure nothing like that happens in Clarendon Hills? I said that up there it was an 'excuse for a railroad' looking for every corner to cut - including insurance. Here we have likely the premier railroad in the country that doesn't cut corners on anything such as track maintenance and insurance. Also Warren Buffett's name is visibly linked to this railroad - and Warren is one investor that no one has linked to the Wall Street bandits.

Should this lady ask me again in light of Casselton, I'll just say that this incident is going to be a learning experience - and on the BNSF, I think we can all be confident such will be the case.

disclaimer: author previously held long position BNI; 'did OK' with such, but Warren has done even better.
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Re: 2 train Collision at Casselton ND

Postby CPSK » Thu Jan 02, 2014 9:42 am

One thing that could be done to help mitigate extensive fire and explosion on event of a derailment is placing non-volatile cars between tankers carrying volatile fluids. Currently, from what I can see, the trains are long continuous strings of tankers with a "buffer" car placed only between the last locomotive and the first tanker. At least this is what I observe on CSX with the ethanol trains.
If non-volatile/flammable cars were to be placed between say every five volatile/flammable tankers, then when there is a derailment, the chances that more than the number of tankers in each "block" (between buffer cars) getting involved in the fire/explosion would be lower. It may take more than one buffer car between blocks of tankers though. One car would probably not be sufficient to keep the tankers apart in the event of derailment.
This is not to suggest that these buffer cars should be empties or any non-revenue cars. They should be any freight that is not flammable/volatile, preferably gravel, scrap metal, etc.
While mixed consists will require more work at the classification yards, and the buffer cars must be removed before delivery to the customer, I see it as a sort of band-aid that is feasible.

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Re: 2 train Collision at Casselton ND

Postby CPSK » Thu Jan 02, 2014 9:59 am

Backshophoss wrote:Lets wait for the NTSB to release that video! :wink:
To create a frame of reference on weights,this is what I found.
From the "Pocket Ref" 3rd edition,weight per cubic foot in pounds:
Crude oil-53.1lbs
Diesel fuel-52.1 lbs
Petroleum oil-55 lbs
Lube oil- 56.1 lbs
Alcohol,ethyl - 49 lbs

(with Thanks to the Mythbusters for pointing out this handy "little" book!! :-))

Thanks for that info. I would have thought that the weight per cu ft of crude oil is significantly higher than that of ethanol, but I suppose that if I understood more about the chemical structure of each material, I would understand that this is not the case. May I venture a guess to say that molecules of ethanol may be lighter than molecules of crude, but one can fit more molecules of ethanol than crude oil into a 1 cu ft space?
I have always associated a liquid's volatility with its weight. On those lines, my assumption is that a gallon of gasoline, ethanol, or oil would weigh less than a gallon of water. One website says that a gallon of gasoline at 20C weighs about 6.2lbs, while a gallon of water at 20C weighs 8.33 lbs. Crude oil is more dense than gasoline, so it would weigh more, but less than water.

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Re: 2 train Collision at Casselton ND

Postby NRGeep » Thu Jan 02, 2014 10:48 am

The issue of fracked crude being contaminated with toxic, flammable chemicals is not going away...

"Crude oil dosn't usually explode and burn with the ferocity that this train did."
-Loyd Burton (referring to the tragedy in Quebec) and this possiblity should be included in the investigation of the ND event it seems.
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-1 ... afety.html
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Re: 2 train Collision at Casselton ND

Postby num1hendrickfan » Thu Jan 02, 2014 10:58 am

Maybe these tank cars being constructed could borrow a note from NASCAR and a rubber bladder liner can be installed along the liner on the inside of all new tanker cars. This was one of the safety innovations the racing organization implemented following a fiery 1964 crash that ultimately led to the death of Glenn "Fireball" Roberts. I'd say this type of system lends itself well to rail tanker cars ( if built to a fairly high standard ), and would certainly limit the possibility of a catastrophic explosion. It's also fairly cheap to implement which would be a very big positive for manufacturers and railroads alike.

As for rail versus pipeline, I'd have to place my vote on rail. Pipelines are only viable if there's no transportation infrastructure in place to move oil ( such is the case in parts of Alaska ). In populated areas constructing oil pipelines is like playing Russian Roulette, it's not a matter on if it will leak somewhere it's a matter of when and how much. Pipelines are also susceptible to explosion under the right circumstances.
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Re: 2 train Collision at Casselton ND

Postby sandyriverman » Thu Jan 02, 2014 12:40 pm

......."As for rail versus pipeline, I'd have to place my vote on rail. Pipelines are only viable if there's no transportation infrastructure in place to move oil"......

The main reason that rail is moving most of the ND oil is because there are no pipelines to carry it in the directions desired.

It is my understanding that it is more efficient, and fair amount cheaper, to move oil by pipeline than rail, and pipelines have a better safety record.

But no pipelines are going to be built in N America as long as the poliitical culture that exists today.....is in power.

Until such time (many years)where things might be different, rail transport is going to be the method of choice!

WC
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