Report: Rail not up for North American oil boom

Oct. 15, 2013 at 8:01 AM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- Some of the railcars used to transport crude oil across the United States and Canada may be vulnerable to rupture, an educator said.

The U.S. Federal Railroad Administration said it was considering new regulations for the industry in the wake of a deadly July derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Railcars carrying so-called tar sands oil from North Dakota exploded in a derailment that left at least 40 people dead.

Lloyd Burton, a hazardous materials professor at the University of Colorado, told National Public Radio there were concerns about freight cars designated as Department of Transportation-111A, a cylindrical tanker.

"It's rigid, it's prone to derailment, and when it derails ... [it is] prone to puncture," he said in an interview broadcast Monday evening.

DOT-111A cars account for about 60 percent of the cars used in North America. The Association of American Railroads reports transportation of so-called tar sands by rail is on the rise because production gains place a burden on existing pipeline capacity.

Burton said DOT-111As aren't designed to handle what he said was the "most dangerous" form of crude oil. Tar sands are considered more corrosive than conventional grades.

NPR reports a U.S. federal review of the rail industry is on hold because of the partial federal government shutdown.

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