LNG on Trains. What Could Go Wrong?

March 6, 2020

Here’s a good test case for what I call the “People’s Carbon Tax”.

Stopping the gas industry from moving Liquified Fossil Gas on trains is something that is understandable, and do-able with local actions around geographic, legal, and legislative pinch points.

Has the added benefit of very likely avoiding some ugly disasters. Above, aftermath of gas pipeline explosion.

Washington Post:

The Trump administration is moving to allow railroads nationwide to ship liquefied natural gas as part of a push to increase energy exports — a practice that hasn’t been permitted until now because of the uncertain hazards it presents.

A proposed Transportation Department rule allowing liquefied natural gas, or LNG, shipments and imposing no additional safety regulations has drawn widespread criticism from local elected officials, attorneys general from 15 states and the District of Columbia, firefighters’ organizations, unions that represent railroad employees, environmentalists, and the National Transportation Safety Board. President Trump has set a deadline of May 10 to put the rule into effect, nearly eight months before results are expected from a Federal Railroad Administration study of the safety of the tank cars that would be used.

Small amounts of LNG have been transported by rail on a trial basis in Alaska and Florida. But if the new rule is adopted, trains of 100 or more tank cars, each with a capacity of 30,000 gallons, could start carrying LNG, primarily from shale fields to saltwater ports, where it would be loaded onto ships for export. They could traverse dozens or hundreds of different jurisdictions across the country, some that rely on volunteer firefighters as first responders, while others are major population centers.

While the proposed rule has caught the attention of regulators and public safety experts, it has largely escaped notice by the general public, and the window to comment on the rule recently closed.

Energy companies and railroads have been pushing to lift the ban at a time when a domestic gas glut has depressed U.S. prices. Trump, eager to prop up exports of fossil fuels, ordered the Transportation Department last April to devise the rule and imposed a quick 13-month deadline. Critics say that leaves nowhere near enough time to assess the dangers and design the safeguards that should be required.

“The risks of catastrophic LNG releases in accidents is too great not to have operational controls in place before large blocks of tank cars and unit trains proliferate,” the NTSB, an independent federal agency, wrote in a comment on the proposed rule.

5 Responses to “LNG on Trains. What Could Go Wrong?”

  1. grindupbaker Says:

    Our home in Streetsville (north Mississauga, Ontario, Canada) was the only part not ordered to evacuate November 10, 1979 when a 106-car CP Rail freight train carrying chemicals and explosives including styrene, toluene, propane, caustic soda, and chlorine derailed at the level crossing and some propane cars caught fire. One propane car exploded and flew over a new housing estate into a field the other side. It was the chlorine car in the blazing mess that triggered evacuation of 200,000 people a couple of days or so. We sometimes went to the big Chinese restaurant at that crossing for our Sunday dinner out.

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    LPG has been carried in tank cars in trains to local distribution centers for many decades now, with the occasional disaster. LNG trains can be added to the LPG and Bakken oil trains without much of an increase in the accident rate.

    When I was a kid (~1950) a LPG tank farm near Newark (NJ) airport exploded, and tanks went flying a quarter of a mile, one landing on and literally flattening a gas station. There have been several similar explosions and fires in that area since. There has been NO effort to remove any of these facilities, and most have gotten larger.

    Gas pipeline explosions occur with some regularity as well. People die, homes and businesses are destroyed—-so what? We must keep the economy rolling and make PROGRESS—that’s how we MAGA—-ask Trump (speak slowly and use short words).

  3. Gingerbaker Says:

    Obviously, the explosion must have been caused by a burning Tesla.


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