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Crude oil fire on derailed Canadian train extinguished

Source: Reuters - Fri, 10 Jan 2014 22:40 GMT
Author: Reuters
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By Solarina Ho

TORONTO, Jan 10 (Reuters) - A fire on a crude oil tanker on a Canadian National Railway Co train that derailed this week in New Brunswick was extinguished by Friday afternoon and CN said blazes on cars carrying liquid petroleum gas (LPG) would be put out shortly.

The CN train had been burning for a fourth day as crews worked to remove the last derailed freight cars adjacent to the fires. A total of 19 cars and one locomotive on the 122-car, four-locomotive train went off the rails on Tuesday evening near the village of Plaster Rock.

Almost half the derailed cars carried crude or LPG.

The accident happened a week after the fiery crash of a crude oil train in North Dakota. The incidents were the latest in a series of high-profile derailments involving dangerous goods in the past year. The incidents have put Canadian and U.S. regulators under intense pressure to toughen industry rules.

Transport Canada announced a proposal on Friday that will turn previously voluntary standards for tank car construction into enforceable regulations.

CN spokesman Jim Feeny said crude oil had leaked from the derailed train, but that the leak has been contained and the crude is being removed. Officials were still investigating the nature of the damage to all the train's tank cars and the volume of product affected.

Feeny said crews have removed tank and freight cars that were close to the LPG fires and have instigated a controlled burn on three LPG cars.

"That is the safest and most effective way to bring this to a conclusion quickly and safely," Feeny said from the site of the derailment. "A lot of progress has been made."

It was still too early to say when the CN mainline would be reopen for traffic, he added.

TIGHTENING REGULATION

Calls for tougher regulatory measures for oil-by-rail in the United States and Canada intensified after a runaway train disaster last summer in Quebec in which 47 people were killed. A rise in shale oil production has spurred a huge boom across the continent in shipping crude via rail.

Recent derailments have often involved older-model tank cars that are used for transporting crude oil. Regulators have deemed these older tankers faulty and vulnerable to being punctured.

It is unclear whether the crude tanker that was on fire in New Brunswick was an older DOT-111 model or a newer model that complies with stricter voluntary standards for tankers adopted in October 2011.

"The older DOT-111 tank cars comply with current regulatory requirements, so CN, under its common carrier obligations, is obliged to transport them," CN spokesman Mark Hallman said in an email, but he reiterated CN's support for regulatory proposals to improve tank car safety.

Transport Canada said its proposed regulation would require new DOT-111 tankers to be built with thicker steel, a top fitting and a head shield protection. The industry is already building new tankers to this standard.

Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt has said she is working with U.S. regulators and the industry to see what additional measures are needed. Her department said on Friday these could include retrofitting, repurposing or retiring older tank cars.

Earlier this week, several U.S. lawmakers urged swift measures from Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who in turn promised that tougher federal standards for tank cars would come "in weeks, not months," according to North Dakota Republican Senator John Hoeven.

CN's Hallman said that tank car owners - generally shippers and rolling-stock leasing companies - should pay for costs of retrofitting tankers. Energy groups are opposed to the tanker proposals because they say the cost of retrofitting roughly 80,000 cars could be prohibitive.

Transport Canada's new regulatory proposal also requires more stringent requirements on documentation for the transportation of dangerous goods.

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