HazMat Regulatory Updates from the US and Canada

FRA Plans to Complete Impact Testing of Cryogenic Tank Cars in 2022

            The past decade has seen a marked increase in natural gas production in the United States.  This, in turn, has led to greater demand to transport products such as liquified natural gas (LNG) by rail and pipeline.  In 2019, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) granted the first special permit to transport LNG using a DOT-113C120W (DOT-113) tank car, which was issued to Energy Transport Solutions for service between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  In 2020, PHMSA issued a Final Rule permitting the transportation of LNG by rail in the DOT-113 specification tank car.  The DOT-113 is a double-walled tank car (“tank-within-a-tank”) that is designed to transport cryogenic liquids such as LNG.

            Initial testing of the DOT-113 tank car was performed by the Office of Research, Development & Technology (RD&T) at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).  RD&T recently announced plans to complete two additional tests on the DOT-113 specification tank car by 2022.  The focus of this shell impact testing is to evaluate the puncture resistance of various tank car designs and make recommendations to reduce the risk of an unintended hazmat release from tank cars involved in derailments. 

            Whereas RD&T’s prior testing of DOT-113 tank cars used water as lading, the upcoming tests will utilize liquid nitrogen instead of water, in order to study the effects of cryogenic temperatures on the overall response and puncture behavior of the steel in the inner tank.  The testing will be conducted at the FRA’s Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colorado, accompanied by finite element analysis performed at the US Department of Transportation’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Canadian Auditor Finds Shortcomings in Transport Canada’s Rail Safety Oversight

            In February 2021, Canada’s Auditor General issued a report to the Canadian Legislature entitled “Follow-up Audit on Rail Safety—Transport Canada,” evaluating the rail oversight functions performed by Transport Canada pursuant to the Railway Safety Act.  The recent report follow up on a 2013 audit of Transport Canada performed by the Auditor General in 2013, in the wake of the derailment of a crude oil train in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, which killed 47 people.  The 2021 audit found that some of the Auditor General’s 2013 recommendations have been adopted, noting improvements in Transport Canada’s risk-based approach to identifying and overseeing safety issues.  But the Auditor General concluded that Transport Canada was unable to show that its oversight activities have contributed to improved rail safety in a measurable way.  Canada’s Transport Minister issued a statement in response to the report, acknowledging the findings and stating that his department is already working to address all of the Auditor General’s recommendations. 

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