The Associated Press | 18 February 2015

West Virginia Oil Train Derailment Was One of Three With Safer Tank Cars

The fiery derailment of a train carrying crude oil in West Virginia is one of three in the past year involving tank cars that already meet a higher safety standard than what federal law requires—leading some to suggest even tougher requirements that industry representatives say would be costly.

Hundreds of families were evacuated and nearby water treatment plants were temporarily shut down after cars derailed from a train carrying 3 million gal. of North Dakota crude on 16 February, shooting fireballs into the sky, leaking oil into a Kanawha River tributary, and burning down a house nearby. It was snowing at the time, but it is not yet clear if weather was a factor.

The train’s tanks were a newer model—the 1232—designed during safety upgrades voluntarily adopted by the industry 4 years ago. The same model spilled oil and caught fire in Timmins, Ontario, on 14 February and last year in Lynchburg, Virginia.

A series of ruptures and fires have prompted the administration of President Barack Obama to consider requiring upgrades such as thicker tanks, shields to prevent tankers from crumpling, rollover protections, and electronic brakes that could make cars stop simultaneously, rather than slam into each other.

United Safety | 17 February 2015

New Vehicle Delivers Safety in Flammable and Toxic Environments

Advances in oilfield technologies and processes have made sour-gasfield development a reality. These fields offer vast oil and gas production opportunities, but the presence of hydrogen sulfide toxic gas creates unique challenges for operators. When this flammable gas is released to the surface, it can create an atmosphere with an increased risk of explosion.

United Safety launches the Air Qruise Electro-Ex with Al Hosn Gas at the 2014 Abu Dhabi Petroleum Exhibition and Conference.

United Safety launches the Air Qruise Electro-Ex with Al Hosn Gas at the 2014 Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference.

Traditional combustion vehicles are not allowed inside these areas, so, in order to transport personnel and equipment, the industry started relying on electric vehicles. However, even before reaching flammable levels, the air in these environments most likely is already toxic to people. Therefore, a solution for this scenario must tackle both flammability and toxicity issues, making safety innovation vital to the sustainable exploration of these resources.

With that in mind, United Safety launched the Air Qruise Electro-Ex in association with Al Hosn Gas at the 2014 Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference.

The Air Qruise Electro-Ex is an ATEX-certified, explosion-proof, battery-powered vehicle. It combines explosion-proof mobility with state-of-the-art gas detection electronics, a highly compact air-supply system, and rapid-deployment breathing masks. This unique combination ensures that personnel are immediately alerted to a gas leak while being supplied with breathing air and transported out of the toxic release site. Additionally, there are improvements in efficiency and productivity, such as optional self-contained-breathing-apparatus jump seats that allow personnel to ride fully equipped, resulting in quicker, safer, and more efficient transport designed for these extreme environments.

The Air Qruise Electro-Ex vehicle.

The Air Qruise Electro-Ex vehicle.

“Al Hosn Gas is committed to becoming the world’s leading company in developing sour-gas resources. Given the complexity of the Shah gas field, we are actively seeking innovative and creative solutions for possible safety gaps as an added layer of protection for our workforce,” said Saif Ahmed Al Ghafli, chief executive officer for Al Hosn Gas.

“The Air Qruise Electro-Ex answers a direct need of operators in sour fields, and the fact that Al Hosn Gas quickly adopted the technology shows that there are in fact players in the industry that are willing to go the extra mile in order to keep their people safe,” said Elie Daher, executive vice president at United Safety.

Read more about the Air Qruise Electro-Ex here.

Bloomberg | 17 February 2015

Canadian National’s Main Line Shuts After Crude Cars Derail

Canadian National Railway shut its main line linking western and eastern Canada after an eastbound train carrying crude oil derailed in Ontario.

The train of 100 cars, all carrying crude from Canada’s oil-producing region of Alberta to eastern Canada, derailed just before midnight on 14 February in a remote and wooded area about 30 miles north of Gogama, Ontario, spokesman Patrick Waldron said in an email. About 18 freight trains a day use the line, he said. A total of 29 cars were involved in the incident, and seven caught fire. The remaining 71 cars were moved from the site, Waldron said. Some oil was spilled.

Canadian oil producers have grown dependent on shipping crude by rail as pipeline capacity has become constrained. The shutdown happened as locomotive engineers and conductors walked off the job at Canadian Pacific Railway, the country’s second major rail carrier, in a move that threatens to snarl carload traffic across the country.

“There might be a push for more pipeline infrastructure because the rail system that we have been relying on for a long time, the cracks are starting to show,” Carl Larry, Houston-based director of oil and gas at Frost & Sullivan, said in a telephone interview.

USA Today | 17 February 2015

Oil Train Derails, Burns in West Virginia

A train hauling North Dakota crude oil derailed 16 February along a snowy West Virginia river, igniting several tank cars, burning down a house, and prompting water-treatment plants to shut down, authorities said.

About, 2,400 residents around Adena Village, near Mount Carbon, were evacuated as a precaution after the 1:30 p.m. accident, Fayette County deputies said. One person was being treated for possible breathing problems, but no other injuries were reported by early evening.

At least one tanker from the 109-car CSX train tumbled into the Kanawha River south of Charleston and was leaking Bakken shale oil, which was headed to a refinery in Yorktown, Va., said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s office.

Water-treatment plants downstream closed intakes and halted operations as a precaution, and residents were urged to conserve water. Officials said the fires were expected to burn until about midnight.

Tomblin declared a state of emergency in Kanawha and Fayette counties.

Reuters | 17 February 2015

USW Leader Says US Refinery Strike Could Spread Over Safe Staffing

A strike by US refinery workers that entered its 16th day on 16 February could spread if there is no progress in talks this week with plant owners on safe staffing levels, said the lead negotiator for the United Steelworkers union (USW).

“The longer that this strike rolls on, the more people that will be affected,” said Gary Beevers, USW international vice president, in a telephone interview.

Asked if the lack of progress in talks with lead oil company negotiator Royal Dutch Shell could result in strikes at more plants, Beevers said: “There certainly will be.”

About 5,200 workers from 11 plants, including nine refineries accounting for 13% of US capacity, were walking picket lines after talks between the USW and Shell Oil failed to reach an agreement on a new national contract.

Read the full story here.

USA Today | 13 February 2015

Potential for Drilling off Virginia Shore Worries NASA

Twenty days after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill rocked the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, the US Department of Interior canceled the proposed sale of a gas and oil drilling lease, Lease 220, off Virginia’s coast.

Almost 5 years later, the possibility of oil and gas drilling off the coast has reappeared, with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announcing in January that a draft oil and gas leasing program for 2017–22 would include one sale in the Atlantic.

According to the bureau, an area of about 2.9 million acres off Virginia may contain 130 million bbl of oil and 1.14 Tcf of natural gas. A lease would give companies such as Shell, ExxonMobil, and Chevron a chance to drill for those resources, which many contend would bring economic activity to the region.

Virginia is ready for a lease, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in comment submitted to BOEM, and prepared to support the potential new energy industry. A study into the state’s preparedness is currently being completed.

Another part of that preparation has meant working with the military to avoid conflicts. Katie Hodgins of US Fleet Forces Command said the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Virginia and the Department of Defense are planning to conduct an assessment to determine the compatibility of a lease sale with their operations.

NASA is asking to be involved in the draft proposed program process, restating concerns brought up with Lease 220. The range must be clear of personnel and property before a launch, and some launches, such as the twice-a-year International Space Station cargo resupply, have a window of 5 minutes or less.

“The presence of either temporary or fixed structures at or below the sea surface, within our range’s hazard areas, would have significant detrimental effects on our ability to conduct aerospace test activities,” NASA said in a comment. “Even the temporary presence of support ships or aircraft within a mission’s hazard areas can result in mandatory range safety criteria not being met, leading to missed launch opportunities.”

KUOW | 10 February 2015

Refinery Workers Strike for Safety at Site of Deadly Anacortes Explosion

About 200 workers at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Washington, are on strike. They’ve had a 24-hour picket line at the plant’s main gate for more than a week.

Steelworkers at nine oil refineries, which produce about one-tenth of the nation’s gasoline, are striking.

Like many labor disputes, this one includes a push for higher wages, but the United Steel Workers say they’re more concerned about their safety on the job.

“Anybody’ll tell you, we make a decent living,” said Tesoro-Anacortes steelworker Ryan Anderson. “What’s important to us is establishing safe staffing at these plants, getting our manpower up to a level that we can feel safe, that our communities feel safe.”

Anacortes suffered Washington’s worst industrial accident of the past half-century in April 2010 when a fireball erupted at the Tesoro plant. Seven workers died; the explosion rocked houses miles away in residential areas of Anacortes.

“Basically, it’s always in the back of our minds that something could happen,” Anderson said.

The United States has a serious refinery accident about once every three days, according to the US Chemical Safety Board.

HSE Press Journal | 3 February 2015

Oil Spill Cleanup Hazards

Oil is pouring from a ruptured pipeline beneath the ocean, and the oil company is hiring as many people as possible, including Paul, to try to contain and clean up the oil spill. Once Paul and the other new-hires finished filling out the new-hire paperwork, their new boss quickly went over safety training with the group. The training consisted of a brief review of marine oil spill response, which lasted about an hour. Their supervisor spent another hour covering marine vessel safety. Paul and the new-hires were going to serve on marine vessels and vessels of opportunity (VOO) to deploy and recover booms. After the brief safety training review, Paul’s supervisor assigned him to a vessel and he started working. After working on the vessel for 4 hours, Paul was beginning to get tired and overheated. It was a very hot day and everyone was working hard to clean up the oil spill and were losing track of time. No one had taken a break.

Crews uncovered an oily boom, and Paul’s boss asked him to help pressure wash it. While doing this, he started to feel light-headed. He started to lose consciousness and slipped. Paul hit his head and fell over the side of the ship and into the ocean. It took 5 minutes for the crew to realize what happened and to pull Paul back on board. Paul sustained a concussion and neck injury and was taken to the hospital for overnight observation. Fortunately, Paul had his life jacket on, which was the only thing that saved his life.

Plant Services | 3 February 2015

Don’t Sacrifice Safety for Productivity

People are often tempted to make do with available tools and risk bodily injury for the sake of saving time and energy. This temptation applies to nearly all tools and equipment, including those designed to provide access to elevated work heights. The risk of falls from elevated working heights is very real. According to Liberty Mutual’s 2013 Workplace Safety Index, these types of incidents ranked as the fourth leading cause of workplace injuries, and they led to USD 4.9 billion in direct costs to businesses in 2011.

This is where safety on ladders, scaffolding and low-level access lifts comes in.

NBC News | 28 January 2015

Oil Train Spills Hit Record Level in 2014

American oil trains spilled crude oil more often in 2014 than in any year since the federal government began collecting data on such incidents in 1975, an NBC News analysis shows.

The record number of spills sparked a fireball in Virginia, polluted groundwater in Colorado, and destroyed a building in Pennsylvania, causing at least USD 5 million in damages and the loss of 57,000 gallons of crude oil.

By volume, that is dramatically less crude than trains spilled in 2013, when major derailments in Alabama and North Dakota leached a record 1.4 million gallons—more than was lost in the prior 40 years combined. But, by frequency of spills, 2014 set a new high with 141 “unintentional releases,” according to data from the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). By comparison, between 1975 and 2012, US railroads averaged just 25 spills a year.

The vast majority of the incidents occurred while the trains were “in transit,” in the language of regulators, rumbling along a network of tracks that pass by homes and through downtowns. They included three major derailments and seven incidents classified as “serious” because they involved a fire, evacuation, or spill of more than 120 gallons. That is up from five serious incidents in 2013, the data shows.

“They’ve got accidents waiting to happen,” said Larry Mann, the principal author of the landmark Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970. “Back in 1991, I said, ‘One day a community is going to get wiped out by a freight train. Well, in 2013 that happened, and, unless something changes, it’s going to happen again.”

Mann was referring to the Lac-Mégantic disaster, a deadly derailment in Quebec just miles from the Maine border. A 72-car oil train rolled downhill and exploded on 6 July 2013, killing 47 people and destroying most of the town.

American Institute of Chemical Engineers | 28 January 2015

Recommendations for Establishing Process Safety Investigation Boards

Global population growth and the associated growth in the production of goods and services provided by high-hazard process industries require increasingly stronger safety systems that reduce the potential for catastrophic failures. One contribution toward enhancing safety is to expand the number of national Process Safety Investigation Boards (PSIBs). As recent experience has shown, PSIBs can investigate catastrophic events resulting in severe damages, identify their circumstances and causes, recommend specific ways to prevent their recurrence, communicate with audiences vulnerable to experiencing similar incidents, and coordinate with other relevant governmental agencies and the private sector to strengthen the policies and practice of process safety. A knowledgeable, skilled, diverse board selected by high-level, public officials and subject to limited terms, can help ensure performance and accountability for the PSIB and its more permanent, hired expert staff who establish and maintain the core technical competencies needed to fulfill the PSIB’s functions.