Within the last few days the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) released the Commodity Preparedness and incident Management Reference Sheet for Petroleum Crude Oil. A summary of the report is outlined below. The complete Reference Sheet can be found at the U.S. Department of Transportation website.
With the increased production of oil from shale reserves in states such as North Dakota and Texas, there has been a dramatic increase in the transportation of crude oil by rail. Rail shipments of crude oil from these regions are typically made using unit trains. Unit trains of crude oil are single commodity trains that generally consist of over 100 tank cars, each carrying approximately 30,000 gallons of crude oil.
Petroleum crude oil is a light to dark colored liquid hydrocarbon containing flammable gasses. It is not a uniform substance and its physical and chemical properties may vary from oilfield to oilfield or within wells located in the same oilfield. Light, sweet crude oils contain flammable gasses such as butane and propane (unless it is known that the gasses have been removed). These gasses can readily ignite if released, when they come in contact with an ignition source. These crude oils may also contain hydrogen sulfide, a toxic inhalation hazard material, in the vapor space of the tank car. Due to the characteristics of crude oil, in an accident scenario, the behavior of this product may range from that of gasoline for the lighter (sweet) crude oils to diesel fuel for the heavier (sour) crude oils.
DO NOT APPLY WATER DIRECTLY INSIDE A TANK CAR. Apply water from the sides of the tank car and from a safe distance to keep fire exposed containers cool. Use unmanned fire monitors for cooling tank cars when available. Withdraw immediately in case of rising sound from venting pressure relief devices or discoloration of tank.If available, dry chemical extinguishing agents, such as potassium bicarbonate (i.e., Purple K) may also be used in conjunction with Class B foams.
Emergency response organizations should use following framework and incident management best practices to prepare for, safely and effectively respond to and crude oil rail transportation incident:
- Pre-Incident Planning and Preparedness
- Incident Management Principles
- Problem Identification
- Hazard Assessment and Risk Evaluation
- Select Proper Personal Protective Clothing and Equipment
- Logistics and Resource Management
- Select and Implement Response Objectives
- Clean-up and Post-Emergency Operations