New US rail tank car design on track for ’09

28 January 2008 23:21  [Source: ICIS news]

ARLINGTON, Virginia (ICIS news)--The design of a more crash-resistant chemical tank car is nearing completion and production versions of the new hazardous materials rail cargo vehicle should begin to roll out in mid-2009, top industry officials said on Monday.


Henry Ward, director of transportation security at Dow Chemical and leader of the next generation rail tank car project, told a rail security conference that design work is on track for roll-out of the new tanker beginning next year and continuing through 2010 and beyond.


In cooperation with the US Federal Railroad Administration, the Transportation Security Administration and Transport Canada, Dow is working with Union Pacific (UP) railroad and Union Tank Car Co. to develop a tank car design that will reduce accident-related releases of toxic inhalant hazardous (TIH) chemicals to as little as 2%.


The accident-related release ratio for current rail tank cars is between 5% and 8% depending on cargo.  In other words, for every 100 tank cars involved in a rail accident, five to eight tank cars will experience a rupture or other damage causing at least some release of its cargo.


The new design also is being crafted to make fully loaded, 130-tonne tank cars less vulnerable to terrorist attack.


The Federal Railroad Administration is to issue its new tank car standard by the end of March this year. Ward said that depending on the exact details of that coming standard and the results of field tests on the new design that are planned for this year, production of the new tank cars could begin early in 2009.


“The projected timeline for this project is holding,” Ward said, “and we expect to see fleet replacement begin as early as mid-2009 with significant roll-out in 2010.”


There are approximately 12,000 chemical tank cars on the US rail system that carry TIH cargoes such as chlorine and ammonia.  Another 3,000 tank cars carry other hazardous cargoes such as ethylene oxide, methyl bromide and sulphuric acid.


The new design uses stronger but not heavier steel, structural foams and adhesives, better tank end shields and lower-profile and fewer valves.


“We have reached the end of the evolutionary path that said ‘thicker steel is better’,” Ward said, noting that the new tank car design will weigh the same and carry as much cargo as existing cars.


Most US chemicals manufacturers own or lease the tank cars that carry their products.

By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653

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