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Summary This report reviews the response of the U.S. pipeline, rail, and barge indusÂ tries to the marked increase after 2005 in the domestic production of crude oil, fuel ethanol, and natural gas. The growing demand to move these new energy supplies economically and safely from new origins, across new routes, and by new means of conveyance was largely unanticipated by transportation providers and the federal authorities that regulate their safety. To the credit of both, the vast majority of these hazardous liquids and gas shipments are transported without incident, enabling the country to capitalize on its energy resources while reducing imported supplies and the safety risks associated with their transportation to the United States. However, some incidents have had severe consequences that attracted the attention of the public, and policy makers are intent on preventing similar incidents in the future. When this study began in 2015, a debate was under way about whether the domestic energy revolution was creating demands on the transportation system that were sacrificing safety. Railroad tank cars and river and coastal tank barges were being used to haul oil and fuel ethanol in increasingly larger volumes, over longer distances, and often through communities that had l Âittle, if any, previous experience with hazardous materials traffic. Some seri- ous tank car derailments occurred, and there was skepticism about whether more high-capacity pipelines could be built to provide a safer means of transport, in part because of highly publicized opposition to the construction of new pipelines on grounds that their safe operation could not be assured. In retrospect, skepticism about the ability of the pipeline sector to add capacity in response to the increasing and changing geographic demand for 1
2 SAFELY TRANSPORTING HAZARDOUS LIQUIDS AND GASES energy transportation was unwarranted. The countryâs hazardous liquid Â and gas transmission pipeline network has expanded dramatically in a relatively short period for such an infrastructure-intensive mode. Since 2015, the domestic energy revolution has taken new turns in response to volatility in oil and natural gas prices, which has led to sharp reductions in the demand for the transportation of these energy liquids and gases by rail and by barge. Even the demand for transporting fuel ethanol, which is met largely by railroads, has passed from a period of growth to one of stability as ethanol production has reached levels targeted by federal policy. Because the domestic energy revolution is still playing out, the potential remains for additional, unanticipated impacts on the energy transportation system that present new safety challenges. In sponsoring this study, the Transportation Research Board Executive Committee sought a review and comparison of how the pipeline, rail, and barge industries have fared to date in safely transporting the new domestic energy liquids and gas traffic. For several reasonsâincluding the difficulty of accounting for infrequent, high-consequence events in incident statistics and the secondary safety effects of more barge and rail traffic activity (e.g., train crashes at highway grade crossings)âdirect statistical comparisons of the safety performance of the different transportation modes can be dif- ficult to make. Furthermore, such safety comparisons can be of question- able value in situations when the modes are not viable substitutes for one another, such as when the traffic served by a train or a barge is too light or irregular to justify the investment in a high-volume transmission pipeline. Nevertheless, several insights can be gleaned from a comparative review of the safety assurance systems in each of the three long-distance trans- portation modes. Based on the following observations from its review of these systems, as well as efforts to strengthen the response capacity when emergencies do occur, the committee offers several recommendations to the U.S. Department of Transportationâs Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The recommendations are made in the spirit of developing a safety assurance and emergency response capability that is even more robust in the face of safety challenges that may arise in the future. OBSERVATIONS Expansion of Oil and Gas Transmission Pipelines Will Require Added Safety Vigilance Dedicated almost exclusively to the transport of hazardous liquids and gases, U.S. pipelines have long transported a large majority of the countryâs domestic and imported crude oil and natural gas supplies. Pipeline opera-
SUMMARY 3 tors, who have a high degree of familiarity with oil and gas shipments, have made substantial investments in new capacity to serve the growing domes- tic oil and gas sector. The U.S. pipeline industry has accommodated the increasing volumes of domestic oil and gas traffic without creating major Â new safety concerns and within the basic framework of a longÂtanding s regulatory and safety assurance process. Unintended pipeline releases have not increased with the higher traffic volumes, and most large year-to-year fluctuations in total release volumes have been the result of occasional major incidents with no discernible pat- tern. Nevertheless, the addition of substantially more pipeline mileage and traffic volume can be expected to result in more total pipeline releases than would have occurred in the absence of these developments. Time-dependent release mechanisms such as corrosion and cracking, as well as outside-force damage such as from excavation strikes, will undoubtedly lead to releases from some of the newer pipelines over time. While the use of advanced pipeline construction methods and technologies may limit these releases, vigilance in pipeline maintenance, integrity management, and leak monitor- ing will be essential to suppressing an increase in total incidents and the likelihood of major events. In cases when existing pipelines have undergone flow reversals or been repurposed from carrying other commodities to transport the new domestic oil and gas traffic, an inventory of these pipe- lines may be warranted to allow for closer monitoring of potential problems that may arise from changes in their stress and operating profiles. Marine Transportation System Offers a Model for a Robust Safety Assurance System Tank barges have a long history of transporting crude oil and other energy liquids with improved safety performance as a result of extensive readiness planning and response training informed by lessons learned more than 30 years ago. Although the increase over the past decade in barge move- ments of crude oil has not attracted much public attention, the total vol- umes of oil transported by barge have exceeded those of rail. A possible reason for the lack of public attention is the exemplary safety record of this mode, which has had no reports of significant ethanol releases from tank barges during the past 10 years and only rare reports of unintended releases of crude oil. The highly sensitive nature of the marine environment has long de- manded vigilance in preventing, containing, and mitigating oil releases from tank barges. A series of catastrophic oil spills from tanker ships and tank barges nearly 30 years ago caused the federal government to revamp the safety assurance system in ways that have fundamentally altered the industryâs safety profile. In addition to requiring the use of double-hulled
4 SAFELY TRANSPORTING HAZARDOUS LIQUIDS AND GASES tankers and tank barges for carrying oil and refined products, several new statutory and regulatory requirements have created a safety assurance system that has proven to be robust in enabling the maritime industry to safely accommodate unanticipated changes in demand for the movement of oil and other energy liquids. Designated by law as the responsible party for oil spills, barge and other vessel operators must make preparations for responding to releases over the length of their transportation routes and immediately notify the U.S. Coast Guard of any observed oil in water regardÂess of quantity or the possibility of another party being the source of l the release. These reforms have been credited with not only fundamentally changing the set of safety incentives that maritime carriers and shippers face, but also with creating a safety culture and assurance system that is anticipatory so that safety is reasonably assured in the face of unforeseen changes in traffic levels, technology, and operating practices. Railroads Have an Opportunity to Create a More Robust Safety Assurance System Railroads had little experience carrying crude oil and ethanol in large quantities until after 2005 when they started transporting these flammable liquids in blocks of tank cars and eventually in unit trains of 100 or more tank cars. Unlike in the pipeline and marine transportation sectors in which the carrier has primary responsibility for all major factors affecting safety, railroads share this responsibility with shippers who own or lease, load, and secure the tank cars. In response to early derailments of trains carrying ethanol and crude oil, the focus of railroad and shipper safety assurance efforts was on designing a tank car that is more crashworthy and resistant to thermal failure in the event of a derailment. New tank car designs intended to improve crashworthiness and thermal Â resistance, including the newest DOT-117 specification, were informed largely by the historical performance of tank cars that had derailed in mixed-car trains. Experience with unit trains of tank cars was too limited to know how the dynamics of their derailments would compare. As this derailment experience increases over time, the safety performance of the DOT-117 design will become clearer. For a transitional period, however, tank cars built to the older specifications that are less crashworthy and less resistant to thermal failures may continue to be used for flammable liquids traffic. Preventing derailments of this traffic is imperative. Investigations of train derailments indicate that track wear and defects are common causal factors. FRA regulations that establish maximum fail- ure rates per track mile are performance based so as to encourage innoÂ vation in the identification, assessment, and repair of defects. Questions remain, however, about the technical basis for the allowable failure rate, the
SUMMARY 5 prioritization that should be given to repairing certain defects, and whether this rate and prioritization should be adjusted for routes with significant flammable liquids traffic. Likewise, questions remain about the technical basis for regulatory requirements that establish maximum speed limits for this traffic, which were established based on speed limits imposed on other types of hazardous materials that are seldom transported in unit trains. Emergency Response Preparedness Has Improved but with Geographic Inconsistency Because crude oil and ethanol unit trains are a relatively new phenomenon, many of the communities traversed had no previous experience preparing for and responding to emergencies involving this traffic. Emergency pre- paredness has improved as knowledge of crude oil and ethanol behavior in tank car derailments has grown and as emergency responder resources, information, and procedures have been enhanced as result of the research, training, and educational efforts of industry and government safety agen- cies. Transportation providers have strengthened their connections with state and local officials, developed new communications tools to aid emer- gency responders, and increased offerings of emergency response training. Despite these noteworthy accomplishments, opportunities remain for further improvement in emergency response capabilities and resources. IndusÂry and government authorities face a continuing challenge in ensur- t ing that the best practices for preparing for and responding to incidents are widely known and that training opportunities are fully exploited, especially among rural communities served by volunteer fire departments. In addition, there is little in the way of guidelines on the kinds of traffic information that carriers should be providing to state emergency response planning agencies, nor assurance that the recipient agencies are transmitting the information to the local responders who may need it. RECOMMENDATIONS A decade after the start of the domestic energy revolution, it is difficult to know whether the impacts on the pipeline, rail, and barge industries have stabilized or temporarily reached a steady state. However, while the pace of change has slowed, it is an opportune time to review the functioning and performance of each modeâs safety assurance system with a strategic focus on its ability to handle future safety challenges. To this end, the committee recommends that PHMSA, which has primary federal responsibility for overseeing and regulating hazardous materials transportation safety, takes the following actions:
6 SAFELY TRANSPORTING HAZARDOUS LIQUIDS AND GASES 1. Undertake a comprehensive review of the successes and failures during the past decade in responding promptly and effectively to the transportation safety challenges presented by the domestic energy revolution for the purpose of informing the development of more anticipatory and robust safety assurance systems, including regulatory approaches. 2. Consult regularly with industry on developments impacting energy liquids and gas transportation and report annually on steps that are being taken to monitor and assess these developments for safety implications. 3. Evaluate the utility of existing incident- and traffic-reporting data for the purpose of identifying and assessing public safety and enviÂ ronmental risks associated with transporting energy liquids and gases, determine whether new and improved incident- and traffic- reporting systems are needed, and ensure that these data and risk metrics are being shared with state emergency preparedness agen- cies and with industry for safety assurance purposes. 4. Consult shippers and carriers on the kinds of data that are available and needed to improve incident- and traffic-reporting systems for the purpose of developing risk metrics. 5. Consult with state emergency preparedness agencies on opportuni- ties for presenting and sharing these data and metrics with local communities and their emergency responders. 6. Coordinate with the other modal safety regulators in encouraging pipeline, rail, and barge operators to make greater use of quanti- tative risk analysis tools to inform decisions about the routing of energy liquids and gases and about priorities for maintenance and integrity management of equipment and infrastructure. 7. Work with FRA in regularly and systematically assessing the risk- reduction impacts of new regulations to ensure the safety of flam- mable liquids shipments, perhaps starting with a review of the crash and thermal performance of the new DOT-117 tank car design. 8. Systematically model the full array of factors that can give rise to and affect the severity of flammable liquids train derailments and crashes, giving attention, for instance, to the propagation of internal rail defects and the kinetics that arise from multicar derailments. 9. Make a concerted effort to ensure that federal emergency prepared- ness grants are being used to meet the planning, training, and resource needs of communities that are facing new and unfamiliar risks as a result of the changes that have occurred in the routing and volume of energy liquids and gas shipments. As a starting
SUMMARY 7 point, PHMSA should review the extent to which emergency re- sponders in such communities, especially in rural areas served by volunteer fire departments, are taking advantage of relevant train- ing opportunities, and then use this information to tailor programs that will enable and incentivize higher levels of participation. In addition to working with PHMSA on the actions recommended above, the committee recommends that FRA: 10. Enable and incentivize more frequent and comprehensive inspec- tions of rail routes that have regular energy liquids traffic, particu- larly by enabling railroads to exploit new inspection capabilities that are being made possible by advances in sensor, imaging, and autonomous systems technologies. CONCLUDING COMMENTS The committee believes, as reflected in the actions recommended above, that industry and regulators should strive to make the safety assurance system for energy liquids and natural gas transportation more anticipatory, responsive, and risk informed. Based on its review of responses to the safety challenges arising from the domestic energy revolution, the committee is optimistic about the ability of industry and government to achieve such an outcome, especially through increased collaboration. Working together, industry, regulators, and the emergency response community will be in a better position to reduce the occurrence and the severity of incidents involv- ing transportation of energy liquids and natural gas. To do so, however, they will need to share information and develop more robust risk Â nalytics, a create and apply incentives to further the use of automation and other technological innovations for monitoring the safe operation and condition of equipment and infrastructure, and regularly review the effectiveness of safety regulations. The actions recommended in this report represent first steps in meeting these needs.