New US rail tank car in production by late ‘09

13 July 2007 20:19  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Construction and testing of a new railroad tank car prototype will begin early next year with commercial production by late 2009 and in-service use starting in 2010, the project leader said on Friday.


A third round of side-impact crash experiments - using conventional tank cars - was completed on Thursday at a test site near Pueblo, Colorado, according to Dow Chemical global director for transportation safety and security Henry Ward.


Dow is the chemical industry partner among five private sector and government players in the next-generation tank car project.  The other participants are Union Pacific (UP) railroad, Union Tank Car Co., the US Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Canadian Transportation Agency.


Ward said the project’s goal is a new tank car for chemical rail transport that will be able to survive derailment or other accident impacts five to ten times better than current tankers.


Tank cars now in general use are based on a design that has not undergone substantive change in 40-50 years. Ruptures of rail tankers carrying toxic inhalant hazardous (TIH) materials have been central to several major accidents in recent years that resulted in multiple fatalities among train crew and crash-area residents.


Ward said the real-world experiments in Colorado - the first ever done testing side-impact vulnerability - have provided invaluable data that will help shape new design parameters.


In the first quarter next year, additional crash tests will be done, focusing on impacts to either end of tank cars, he said.  The first “next generation” tank car prototypes to be built by Union Tank Car will be ready for testing in the second-quarter 2008.


In addition to crash tests, some prototypes will be put out on the US rail system, carrying inert cargoes, to see how they work in real use, Ward said. Testing will run into 2009 with commercial production expected late that year and roll-out into chemical industry tanker fleets beginning in 2010 and continuing over several years.


Ward said the new tankers will meet or exceed whatever standards US or Canadian government regulators are expected to issue next year.


The new tank cars are likely to cost around $150,000 (€109,000) each when full production is reached.  Existing tankers cost around $100,000.  Replacing all of the estimated 13,000 tankers now in use in the US and Canada is expected to cost chemical producers - who own or lease the tank cars - more than $2bn over the multi-year roll-out period.


($1 = €0.73)

By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653

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