Fatal Canada oil rail shipment was mislabelled: agency

12 September 2013 17:33  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS)--The crude oil shipped on the train that derailed and exploded in Quebec in July, killing 47 people, was mislabelled, samples taken by a Canadian safety agency found, an official said on Thursday.

Don Ross, an investigator for the Transportation and Safety Board (TSB), said that samples the TSB took from the oil in the railcars showed that the oil should have been described as a “packing group II” flammable liquid, rather than a less flammable “packing group III” liquid.

“It was shipped as a packing group III flammable liquid, which is the least hazardous type of liquid, but the results of our testing show that [the product] was packing group II,” he said.

Packing group II has a lower flash point than group III, “so, as far as awareness of anybody who needs to handle the products or get into contact with them it would have been helpful" to have the products described and classified correctly, he said.

Ross would not speculate about possible legal consequences the mislabelling may have for the rail carriers or other parties involved.

The oil on the 72-railcar train that derailed and exploded on 6 July at Lac Megantic, Quebec, came for North Dakota's Bakken shale oil region and was destined for Irving Oil’s 300,000 bbl/day refinery at Saint John in Canada’s eastern New Brunswick province.

“Our understanding of the Canadian regulations is that when you are dealing with an international shipment it is the importer that’s the person that’s going to be responsible to make sure that they comply with Canadian legislation,” he added.

Ross said that the TSB’s investigation was ongoing. As part of the probe, the agency is also reviewing relevant regulations and company operating practices.

He added that the TSB had long argued for stronger tank railcars to be used in shipping group I and II flammable liquids.

In a separate statement, the TSB said that product characteristics such as flammability were one of the factors in selecting a container.
As such, the mislabelling would “also brings into question the adequacy of Class 111 tank cars for use in transporting large quantities of low-flash flammable liquids”, it said.

The TSB investigates accidents and makes recommendations to improve transport safety, but it is not a regulator.

In related news on Thursday, a Quebec television network reported that police would, within weeks, “make first arrests” in connection with the Lac Megantic catastrophe. The TVA network cited an unnamed source at Quebec’s provincial police, Surete du Quebec.

By: Stefan Baumgarten
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