The Lac Megantic crude oil disaster

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piston
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The Lac Megantic crude oil disaster

Post by piston » Sun Jul 07, 2013 4:13 pm

In some ways, this terrible incident is more tragic than the airplane crash in S.F. Last I checked, there were five reported deaths and 40 people reported "missing."

Lac Megantic village is near the Maine border. (In fact, Maine firefighters were fighting the blaze alongside their Quebec counterparts). A train carrying crude oil for Maine was "parked" on top of a hill where, it is said, the engineer applied the brakes and did everything right. Somehow this parked train became a runaway train at one in the morning and crashed into the center of town, with several oil cars exploding and destroying homes all around them.

The mystery remains how this secured train came down the hill. Brake failure? Human error? Sabotage?

I, for one, do hope that the forty missing people will be found.

BTW, this tragedy could suggest that it would not be that difficult for terrorists to create both disaster and diversion near the Canada-US border.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

piston
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Re: The Lac Megantic crude oil disaster

Post by piston » Sun Jul 07, 2013 4:37 pm

An excerpt from the Reuters article:
It is not clear why the train began rolling down toward the town, or why the crude oil, not normally considered highly explosive, blew up. The rail line is owned by Montreal, Maine & Atlantic, which said the engineer had secured the train for the night and left.

"That's the first thing I would think of: did someone release all the brakes?" asked Guy Landrio, a Warren, Pennsylvania, railroad consultant with 37 years of industry experience. "In my experience, a train doesn't just simply let itself go down the hill into a town. There's usually a cause behind it."
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

Chalkperson
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Re: The Lac Megantic crude oil disaster

Post by Chalkperson » Sun Jul 07, 2013 5:30 pm

piston wrote:In some ways, this terrible incident is more tragic than the airplane crash in S.F. Last I checked, there were five reported deaths and 40 people reported "missing."

Lac Megantic village is near the Maine border. (In fact, Maine firefighters were fighting the blaze alongside their Quebec counterparts). A train carrying crude oil for Maine was "parked" on top of a hill where, it is said, the engineer applied the brakes and did everything right. Somehow this parked train became a runaway train at one in the morning and crashed into the center of town, with several oil cars exploding and destroying homes all around them.

The mystery remains how this secured train came down the hill. Brake failure? Human error? Sabotage?

I, for one, do hope that the forty missing people will be found.

BTW, this tragedy could suggest that it would not be that difficult for terrorists to create both disaster and diversion near the Canada-US border.
Terrorism and trains have always been a great concern, especially given the miles of open track all over the Country, in fact the Canadians arrested two people in April for plotting to attack a passenger train...

http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/22/world/ame ... t-thwarted

Here is a Wiki list of incidents, Russia and India seem most prone to these types of attack...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_te ... ay_systems
Sent via Twitter by @chalkperson

piston
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Re: The Lac Megantic crude oil disaster

Post by piston » Mon Jul 08, 2013 8:27 pm

From what I have read, this was North Dakota crude oil on its way east, via Quebec, through Maine and on to New Brunswick. Similarly to other such convoys, it was a heavy transportation affair consisting of 104 cars on tracks that have not been maintained as well as they used to be, when railway companies were in the money.

The interesting part of this tragedy is also rather scary. A train with such a heavy cargo consists of five locomotive engines. The conductor shut down four of them when he parked the train and kept the fifth one running. This fifth unit, running on diesel into the night, is the unit which kept the brakes operative, on top of the hill. Without this unit, the brakes cannot function.

Well, that is the unit that somehow shut down shortly before one in the morning with the outcome that we know: a runaway train loaded with crude oil.

In terms of security, one might be shocked to learn that a locomotive such as this can be shut down internally, if one gains access to the cabin, or externally, where an emergency mechanism can be pulled to shut it down............

That is the extent of our railroad security when it comes to conveying "fracked" crude oil across the continent.

In Maine, environmentalists have jumped on this incident across the border to point out that our state tracks are not safe enough to carry this sort of heavy cargo, that commercial interests, circumventing the long and uncertain road to building pipelines, have found unsafe ways to bring N.D. crude oil to the Atlantic coast.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

piston
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Re: The Lac Megantic crude oil disaster

Post by piston » Tue Jul 09, 2013 6:47 am

Eight more bodies have been found, now totalling thirteen identified fatalities. Authorities have requested family members of the remaining missing people to contribute DNA information but have added that there may not be enough cremains (remains from cremation) to yield conclusive evidence in all cases. The center of the fire remained so hot all day Sunday that firefighters and searchers could not get any closer to it than 150 yards. It is believed that several missing people were socializing at a popular local bar at the time of the impact and that bar was totally incenerated.

Here's an excerpt from today's edition of the Economist which provides information about the considerable increase of railway oil traffic in recent years:
The disaster fuels an existing debate over the safety of moving oil by train, which has become increasingly popular with both energy and rail companies. Although it is more expensive that using a pipeline, rail transport of crude oil in Canada has soared to an estimated 140,000 carloads this year from 500 in 2009, in part because of pipeline constraints and the emergence of new shale oil and gas production far from existing pipelines. Railway companies have encouraged the new business.

Critics fear that corners may be cut on safety and cite numbers showing a heightened risk of train derailments. Pipeline advocates, including those pushing for approval by the United States of the Keystone XL pipeline, note that pipeline leaks are fewer in number. However, the International Energy Agency said recently that although there is more risk of an oil spill from a train than from a pipeline, the total amount spilled from pipelines in the United States is three times greater. Neither is completely safe. In the coming months, the appalling images of the Lac Mégantic disaster will probably be used to argue both for and against new pipelines.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

piston
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Re: The Lac Megantic crude oil disaster

Post by piston » Tue Jul 09, 2013 5:57 pm

Update:
This does not appear to have been a crime, in any sense of the word. But it is a fine example of the manner organization failures can easily occur.

An earlier locomotive fire, four miles from Lac-Megantic, where the train was parked, drew local firefighters and a railway employee, I imagine, in the late hours of the evening. They extinguished the fire but, in accordance with procedure, they also shut down the fifth unit, the unit which was keeping the brakes functioning. They communicated with a railway company rep., not sure who, and informed that person that they were done. That railway rep. did not ask them to restart the engine..... Presumably he/she assumed that the train was parked on a flat terrain.

Which brings us to a key question: why did the train engineer park it and went to bed in a local motel? Because, similarly to what has been done in the US, railway companies have been cutting labor costs by eliminating the engineer's traditional workmate, the conductor. Trains did not have to be "parked" as much in the past because the conductor replaced the engineer and the train could just keep moving.

The investigation is ongoing and some of my assumptions may prove misplaced in the end.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

lennygoran
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Re: The Lac Megantic crude oil disaster

Post by lennygoran » Wed Jul 10, 2013 8:43 am

piston wrote: This does not appear to have been a crime,
But maybe criminal negligence?

"Quebec police inspector Michel Forget said that investigators have "discovered elements" that have led to a criminal probe in the small town of Lac-Megantic."

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world ... 99479.html

Regards, Len

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Re: The Lac Megantic crude oil disaster

Post by karlhenning » Wed Jul 10, 2013 8:53 am

Awful disaster.

Best wishes,
~Karl
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piston
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Re: The Lac Megantic crude oil disaster

Post by piston » Mon Jul 15, 2013 6:37 am

The death toll now stands at 35 people, with a dozen or more individuals still listed as "missing." A natural feeling of rebellion is finding expression in the small town, with some people threatening to remove these tracks "from hell" and force the train to pass elsewhere. But ten percent of the area's population depend on this transportation industry for their livelihood.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

piston
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Re: The Lac Megantic crude oil disaster

Post by piston » Wed Aug 07, 2013 4:48 pm

The Maine-based railway company has filed for bankruptcy, citing loss of revenue caused by the destruction of the line in Lac Megantic, enormous clean up costs, and law suits by the families of all the victims of this tragedy.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

piston
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Re: The Lac Megantic crude oil disaster

Post by piston » Thu Feb 26, 2015 6:34 pm

An update for this old thread. The railroad company had only 25 million dollars in insurance and promptly went bankrupt:
And also, when something happens on the tracks in a community, the community looks at the railroads. They don't look at the producers. They don't look at the refineries, but they look at the railroad. So the railroad really feels the burden of the liability. In Lac-Megantic, the railroad there caused what could be up to $2 billion worth of liabilities. It promptly went bankrupt because it only had $25 million worth of insurance. And very few of these railroads in the United States have significant amounts of insurance to cover the kinds of liabilities that they'll face in these kinds explosions.
Did you know that the oil producers, not the railway companies, own the railcars, including the notoriously structurally deficient DOT-111? These cars were built to haul non-explosive cargo such as corn syrup! There are currently about 100,000 DOT-111 cars carrying crude oil in the US and everybody knows that they have a tendency to rupture in case of a derailment:
Well, the railroads don't actually own the railcars. The railroads own the track, and they have the right-of-ways. They have the locomotives. But the people who own the railcars are the producers in North Dakota and the refineries that are taking them. They're called the shippers. And so basically, the refineries and the producers own these railcars, and so the burden of upgrading the railcars falls on them. And they are the ones that are resisting the upgrades. [...] And since 1991 - so for 23 or 24 years now - the National Transportation Safety Board has been saying that this is a very dangerous railcar to put anything volatile into because it has a tendency to rupture whenever there's a derailment.
From the investigative reporting of Mark Stern has reported on NPR's Fresh Air.
http://www.npr.org/2015/02/25/389008046 ... anker-cars
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Re: The Lac Megantic crude oil disaster

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Feb 27, 2015 7:45 am

Thanks for keeping us up to date. Important stuff to know.

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piston
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Re: The Lac Megantic crude oil disaster

Post by piston » Fri Feb 27, 2015 6:12 pm

Most of these cars were built in the 1960s:
Image
And they are hauled, in some places, over century-old lumber rotten bridges such as this one in Tuscaloosa:
Image
Image
But, DON'T REGULATE BUSINESS, clamor in one voice the hard-headed Republicans of the deep South.
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Re: The Lac Megantic crude oil disaster

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Feb 27, 2015 9:32 pm

piston wrote:But, DON'T REGULATE BUSINESS, clamor in one voice the hard-headed Republicans of the deep South.
Or invest in infrastructure.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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piston
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Re: The Lac Megantic crude oil disaster

Post by piston » Sat Mar 07, 2015 5:08 pm

Earlier today or yesterday:
It’s almost impossible to keep track of the number of reported Canadian National Railway derailments. Early this morning, another CN derailment occurred in northern Ontario, this time about 100 km north of Sudbury (CTV News). 10 tank cars loaded with crude oil fell off the tracks, several caught fire, and others tumbled into the Mattagami River.

Residents in nearby Gogoma have been told to stay indoors, and Mattagami First Nations members have been told to avoid drinking water from the community source. The local fire department recommended anybody with breathing problems to stay indoors until further notice because particles in the smoke might be dangerous. A section of the main highway connecting Timmins with southern Ontario has been closed. An emergency response plan has been activated with local officials. The amount of crude oil spilled and the extent of environmental damage has not yet been determined.

This most recent derailment, is the fifth CN derailment reported so far in Ontario in 2015. On March 5, 16 CN tank cars loaded with crude oil or gasoline residue derailed east of Hornepayne. 29 tank cars loaded with crude oil derailed February 14 near Timmins and 7 cars burned for several days. On January 31, 2 CN cars derailed in Richmond Hill – 1 was loaded with hazardous sulphuric acid and 1 was carrying steel. 4 CN grain cars fell off the tracks inside a Thunder Bay rail yard on January 9, damaging the track.

Rounding out the number of CN derailments reported so far in 2015, are 3 in Alberta (1 near Conklin, 1 in Jasper, 1 near Jarrow); 1 in downtown Winnipeg; 1 in the Mont-Joli region of Quebec; 1 in Butler County, Pennsylvania; and 1 northwest of Duluth, Minnesota.
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piston
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Re: The Lac Megantic crude oil disaster

Post by piston » Wed Oct 14, 2015 3:37 pm

A 450 million Canadian dollar settlement has been approved in court for the families of the 47 victims.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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