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1 Introduction For more than a decade, the United States has been experiencing what is often called a domestic energy revolution. The increased use of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has led to a dramatic increase in U.S. production of crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids from the coun- tryâs shale and other mudstone basins. During roughly the same period, domestic production of corn-based ethanol has risen sharply in response to federal mandates for the use of renewable fuel in gasoline. Often sourced from regions that were once minor producers of energy liquids and gases, these new supplies have created many unforeseen demands on long-distance energy transportation. Home to some of the countryâs most productive hydraulic fractur- ing fields, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and their neighboring states are located far from many established markets for oil and natural gas, such as refinery and petrochemical centers. Having limited access to an in-place network of transmission pipelines, producers of oil and natural gas liquids from these regions have turned to trains and barges to transport their products to distant markets. Likewise, ethanol plants in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and other corn-producing states in the Midwest are located far from some of the countryâs largest consumers of gasoline, the major population centers on the East and West Coasts and in the Southeast and the Southwest. These producers too have turned to trains and barges to access distant markets. The countryâs new oil, natural gas, and ethanol supplies have added to what was already a large volume of hazardous liquids and gases, including gasoline, diesel, and propane, moving in pipelines, railroad tank cars, and 8
INTRODUCTION 9 tank barges. Assuring the safety of these hazardous shipments has therefore been a concern of industry and government for decades. The additional energy liquids and gas supplies, however, have presented some new and, in many cases, unanticipated safety assurance challenges. For instance, negli- gible amounts of crude oil, and relatively little ethanol, were transported by rail a decade ago. When traffic demand increased abruptly, general purpose tank cars were enlisted to transport the oil and ethanol, first in blocks of a dozen or fewer tanks cars and later in unit trains consisting of 100 or more tank cars. Traversing new routes, these tank car unit trains attracted the attention of the communities unfamiliar with this traffic. This attention soon turned to concern as some trains derailed with serious consequences. Meanwhile, increasingly larger quantities of crude oil and ethanol were being transported by barge, carried southbound on the Mississippi River, on the intracoastal waterways in the Gulf of Mexico, and in combination with trains to waterborne transshipment points, such as the Port of Albany on the Hudson River, to serve refineries on the Atlantic Coast. Unlike rail, the waterways have a long history of moving crude oil and other petroleum products in large quantities by tank barge and ship. Longstanding concern over oil movements on the nationâs waterways has led to a well-established system for spill prevention, containment, and mitigation, including require- ments for double-hull designs, spill notification, and emergency response preparation. By no means a novice transporter of crude oil and other flam- mable liquids, the waterways can nevertheless be a controversial mode because of the environmentally sensitive nature of the rivers and coastal waters that compose the marine transportation system. The transportation mode that is most specialized to hazardous liquids and gases, and thus inherently well-equipped to handle the new domestic shipments of oil and natural gas, is the transmission pipeline system. In the case of natural gas and natural gas liquids, pipelines offer the only practi- cal option for high-volume, domestic transportation. In the case of crude oil, the building of more long-distance pipelines is often proposed as a way to move this product to markets more efficiently and safely than by other modes. Inasmuch as transmission pipeline incidents have been responsible for some of the countryâs largest and most costly onshore oil releases, these safety advantages can be questioned, or at least scrutinized. A more fundamental issue, however, is whether the three modesârail, barge, and pipelineâare practical and economical substitutes for one another such that comparisons of their safety record are material. Concentrated in the middle of the country, the U.S. crude oil pipeline network lacks direct connections to many East Coast and West Coast refineries, which do have access to rail or water transportation or both. The prospect of connecting these refineries to the transmission pipeline network is limited for economic, technical, and political reasons. Therefore, in those instances when the modes are
10 SAFELY TRANSPORTING HAZARDOUS LIQUIDS AND GASES not practical substitutes, comparisons of their safety performance can lack decision-making relevance. In recent years, additional pipelines have been built to accommodate more of the oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids produced from hydrau- lic fracturing, thereby enabling supplies from once-stranded fields to reach a larger number of markets. Typically more economical than other modes, the growing pipeline network, coupled with the lifting of the crude oil export ban, has increased markets for the once-trapped domestic supplies of crude oil and reduced the price gap that had made its transportation by rail and by barge more attractive to shippers. The transportation safety impacts of the domestic energy revolution are much clearer today than they were when the traffic volume of energy liquids and gases started to escalate a decade ago. In response to derailments of trains carrying crude oil and ethanol, industry and government regulators have taken action, including the development of new rules governing the design of the tank cars eligible to carry these products, the routing and operating speeds of trains moving these tank cars, and the provision of traf- fic data to states and local communities for emergency response planning purposes. At that time, these regulatory measures and other steps to ensure the safety of shipments had to be developed quickly without the benefit of prior experience or an empirical basis to gauge potential impacts. With those heady days having passed, there is time to develop this basis, both to evaluate the measures that have been taken and to identify additional actions that may be needed to address any newly understood or residual risks. As discussed next, an important aim of this study is to spark such a follow-on processânot to second-guess past decisions but rather to ensure that the systems for assuring the safe transportation of energy liquids and gases are responsive to changes in shipping trends and sufficiently robust to accommodate further changes in the domestic energy landscape. STUDY ORIGINS, SCOPE, AND CHARGE As the domestic energy revolutionâs many effects on the U.S. transportation system were becoming evident, the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Executive Committee decided in 2015 to sponsor this study, which focused on the safety of the modes used for long-distance movement of energy liquids and gases. Often referred to as the âmidstreamâ portion of the energy supply chain, these long-distance modes consist primarily of trans- mission pipelines, railroads, and waterways. They move crude oil, natural gas, natural gas liquids, and ethanol in bulk quantities from âupstreamâ production and processing facilities to distant âdownstreamâ locations, where the shipments are refined, stored, and/or delivered to end customers by barge, truck, or pipeline.
INTRODUCTION 11 A reason for focusing on the midstream modes is that they have been affected most by the growth in the domestic energy supplies and by the changes in where the supplies are produced, how they are transported, and the routes they traverse. While downstream-refined products such as gasoline and diesel are often transported long distances between refineries and customers, the locations of refinery centers and their customer bases have remained fairly fixed over time, and therefore so too has the pattern of downstream-transportation activity. The fact that refineries are receiving more of their crude oil supplies from domestic production sources has had little bearing on the downstream modes, including trucks, that transport the refinery output. Likewise, the utilities and local distribution companies that receive natural gas from new domestic sources continue to distribute the gas through the same pipeline distribution systems. All three segments of the logistics chainâupstream, midstream, and downstreamâface transportation safety challenges. As new oil and gas fields using hydraulic fracturing have been developed far from traditional energy-producing regions, local roads have had to be upgraded, both to accommodate higher truck volumes and to ensure traffic safety. This up- stream segment, however, is characterized by the movement of oil and gas over short distances, often in low-volume gathering pipelines or by tank trucks operating on rural roads.1 At the other end of the logistics chain, the downstream transportation segment can be especially challenging because of the need to move flammable liquids and gases through populated areas, often by tank trucks operating in mixed traffic and in pipelines serving com- mercial and residential users. However, even though these safety challenges can be vexing, they have not changed fundamentally as a direct result of the domestic energy revolution. Although affected the most by the domestic energy revolution, the midstream transportation system was in many ways well prepared for the resulting safety challenges. Crude oil and natural gas liquids have been moved by transmission pipeline and on the nationâs waterways for decades. The operators of these modes are familiar with transporting these commodities, and have long been subject to regulatory requirements to prevent, contain, and mitigate releases through means such as corrosion prevention, double-hull vessels, and leak-monitoring systems. For these two midstream modes, the added traffic volumes and new routings have, at the very least, added marginally to an already significant task of ensuring the safe transport of energy liquids and gas shipments. The safety challenge has been substantially greater for railroads, because they did not transport large 1 The safety of gathering lines has raised concern in recent years, especially because of the construction of some larger, higher-pressure gathering pipelines to move natural gas; Govern- ment Accountability Office. 2015. Pipeline Safety. http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/672809.pdf.
12 SAFELY TRANSPORTING HAZARDOUS LIQUIDS AND GASES quantities of crude oil and ethanol before the domestic energy revolution. For this mode, the new locations, quantities, frequencies, and properties of this added traffic have created several new safety challenges. Observing the many changes taking place in the countryâs midstream energy transportation sector, the TRB Executive Committee called for a studyâas detailed in Box 1-1âthat would focus specifically on this part of the logistics chain. In so doing, the Executive Committee requested a comparison of the three midstream modes in safely transporting the new energy liquids and gas traffic. The comparison would go beyond a review of incident rates, the results of which can have little decision-making value when the modes are not realistic substitutes for one another. Instead, the comparison would be undertaken with an eye to the regulatory and other means by which each mode has responded to the safety challenges created by the dramatic changes in the location, frequency, and quantity of this added traffic. Because an important aspect of this safety assurance challenge is to ensure an effective emergency response, the study charge calls for an examination of the resources needed by the emergency preparedness com- munity to plan for and respond to these incidents. The TRB Executive Committee was not interested in a study that examines safety interventions and initiatives that have been required by regulatory agencies or adopted by industry in recent years in response to safety concerns arising from developments other than the domestic energy Box 1-1 Statement of Task This study will focus on the transportation safety issues associated with changes in the long-distance movement of crude oil, natural gas, and ethanol resulting from sharply increased domestic production of these hazardous materials in recent years. To inform federal, state, and local officials, the committee will: â¢ Review and compare the performance of the long-distance modes in safely transporting these shipments with minimal harm to people, prop- erty, and the environment; â¢ Examine the safety risks and assurance challenges arising from changes in the routing, frequency, quantity, and properties of the long-distance shipments; â¢ Critically review strategies to reduce the likelihood and severity of incidents; â¢ Examine the resources needed by the emergency preparedness com- munity to plan for and respond to these incidents; and â¢ Determine whether changes in public policy could reduce the likelihood of these incidents and their adverse safety and environmental impacts.
INTRODUCTION 13 revolution. Such a review would have been unwieldy for modes such as marine and rail transportation that move many different products that pres- ent a diverse set of safety demands. While a discussion of past initiatives is needed to provide context, the focus of the study is on examining the more recent response to the specific challenges arising from the domestic energy revolution. Moreover, the TRB Executive Committee was not interested in a study that second-guesses these recent responses, but rather one that is forward-looking and helpful for the development of an increasingly robust safety assurance systemâone that enables a more effective response to the energy transportation challenge. It is in this spirit that the study charge calls for recommendations on changes in public policy that could reduce the likelihood of incidents and their adverse safety and environmental consequences. ORGANIZATION OF THE REPORT This report is organized into five chapters. This chapter provides the intro- duction. Chapter 2 describes the revolutionary changes that have been taking place in U.S. energy supply and demand during the past decade. It begins with a general review of the countryâs energy supply and demand circumstances before 2008, and then describes more recent developments in the domestic crude oil, natural gas, and ethanol markets since the domestic energy revolution. Chapter 3 describes how the midstream transportation modes have accommodated the increasing volumes of domestic energy. Background is provided on the size and scope of each modeâs network and the specific means of conveyance used for these energy commodities. Trends in the amount of crude oil, ethanol, and natural gas shipped by these three modes are reviewed from the start of the domestic energy revolution to today. Chapter 4 reviews the safety performance of the three long-haul modes when transporting crude oil, ethanol, and natural gas. The discussion focuses on the number, severity, and causes of incidents during the past decade and on safety issues that have been identified following investiga- tions of the most serious incidents. Consideration is also given in Chap- ter 4 to key policies that have been put in place since the domestic energy revolution to assure the safety of the midstream modes and to strengthen emergency response capacity. Chapter 5 contains the study findings and recommendations.