The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recently issued an emergency testing order that requires all shippers to test crude oil from the Bakken region to ensure proper identification before the oil is transported by rail.
The order is in response to a number of recent incidents involving the derailment of trains transporting crude oil from Canada to the United States. The estimated cost of the damages from these accidents has topped $1 billion and caused significant environmental damage.
Accident investigations have highlighted the need for more accurate classification of crude oils. Classification has often been based solely on safety data sheets, which frequently are outdated.
As a result of these investigations, the DOT issued several emergency testing orders with the most recent amended version issued on March 6, 2014, and addressed to shippers of petroleum crude. The order specifically requires the flash point and boiling point testing of crude oils and endorses the requirement that crude oil shipments follow volatility testing defined by hazardous material regulations (HMR).
In HMR, the testing of crude oil vapor pressure is critical in determining the requirements for safe packing for transport. A derailment can result from the boiling over of crude oils from too much pressure in a rail carriage. This risk increases significantly if the crude oil includes gaseous components.
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