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DOT-111 railcars banned from transporting crude in Canada by the fall

DOT-111 railcars banned from transporting crude in Canada by the fall

Transport Minister Marc Garneau has ordered the retirement of all DOT-111 railcars by November 1st, 6 months earlier than planned. The DOT-111 railcars were involved in the Lac-Mégantic tragedy three years ago. The new regulation applies to crude oil transport only, on both jacketed and non-jacketed cars. All other flammable materials can continue to use DOT-111s until 2025.

Canadian and US transport authorities have both identified design flaws with the old DOT-111 cars, including:

  • The containers of the tank cars are made of 7/16" thick steel, making them more susceptible to damage than thicker steel.
  • Cars built before 2010 typically lack thermal protection causing the tanker to either explode or melt during a fire, releasing the contents.
  • The heat shields, which protect each end of the car, doesn't always cover the entire span of the railcar.
  • The valves on top of the cars are unprotected and susceptible to damage if the car rolls over.

In 2014, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) recommended the phase out of older DOT-111 tank cars for the shipment of all flammable liquids. In May, the US introduced enhanced standards for highly-hazardous flammable unit trains, which includes slower operating speeds and enhanced braking systems. Non-jacketed DOT-111 railcars in the US must be retrofitted by 2017, while jacketed railcars have until 2018.

After November, tankers transporting crude in Canada must be TC-117 compliant (or DOT-117 in the US) which provides a number of enhanced safety features:

  • The TC-117 railcars are all thermally protected and jacketed, with 9/16" thick steel shell and full head shields. The outer cover jacket keeps insulation in place and provide additional strength and reinforcement. The improved design provides better puncture resistance, structural strength and make the railcars less prone to fracture.
  • Thermal protection increases the survivability of railcar in the event of a fire. The tankers must be able to withstand exposure to a 100-minute pool fire and a 30-minute jet fuel fire without rupturing.
  • Full head shields protect the ends of the tank car from being punctured by equipment or collisions with adjacent rail cars in the event of derailment. 
  • Mandatory top fitting protection will cover the valves on top of the tank car, guarding against damage in the event of a rollover.
  • An enhanced bottom outlet valve remains closed, preventing leaks during an incident.
GRAPHIC COURTESY TRANSPORT CANADA

GRAPHIC COURTESY TRANSPORT CANADA

The Canadian government estimates there are 28,000 DOT-111 railcars being used to transport goods across the Canada/US border. Neither CN nor CP Rail have any in service but US rail companies transporting crude in DOT-111 cars will not be allowed to cross the border.

US imports of Canadian crude oil continues to decline

US imports of Canadian crude oil continues to decline

Lessons learned from Enbridge's Kalamazoo River spill

Lessons learned from Enbridge's Kalamazoo River spill