Canadian Manufacturing

Lac-Megantic: TSB says crude oil on board train not properly ID’d

Agency said test results indicate petroleum crude misidentified as least hazardous flammable good

September 11, 2013  by Canadian Manufacturing Daily Staff

OTTAWA—Canada’s independent transportation safety agency claims the potential danger posed by the crude oil on board the train that levelled part of Lac-Megantic, Que., wasn’t properly documented before the disaster.

According to the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada, the crude being carried by the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) Railway freight train that derailed and exploded in the heart of the tiny eastern Quebec town was misidentified as a dangerous good with the least hazardous characteristics.

The agency said test results indicate the petroleum crude contained in the DOT-111 tank cars involved in the incident should have been identified as a Class 3 Dangerous Good, and further divided into packing group (PG) II, a medium hazardous flammable liquid.

In the first major revelation in the TSB’s investigation into the disaster, the agency said the lower flash point of the crude oil explains in part why it ignited so quickly once the DOT-111 tank cars were breached.

Since product characteristics are one of the factors when selecting a container, the adequacy of DOT-111 tank cars for use in transporting large quantities of low flash flammable liquids (PG I and PG II) is also being called into question by the TSB.

According to the agency, further tests are being done on the product samples and testing has started on the components of the tank cars.

A review of the relevant regulations and company operating practices is also underway.

Regulations review

As the investigation continues, the TSB is calling on regulators in Canada and the United States to review their respective policies on how the transporting and importing of dangerous is governed in order to ensure the properties of the goods are accurately determined and documented.

The agency said it has issued safety advisory letters to Transport Canada and the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration on the matter.