By MELANIE CRUTHIRDS
News Editor, World Oil
ORLANDO, Florida -- During this week's industry leadership
breakfast at the AFPM Annual Meeting, BNSF Railway executive
chairman Matthew Rose spoke to the concerns many people,
whether they are in the industry or not, have about rail
Even with heightened media coverage surrounding derailments
last year, including BNSFs crash in Casselton, North
Dakota, Rose said both 2012 and 2013 were record safety years
for his company, and the larger rail industry.
As BNSF prepares this year to purchase new locomotives and
expand terminal capacities, in addition to growing its
coverage areas, the issue of best practices surrounding the
safe transportation of crude within its network is still
evolving. Especially in US shale plays, like the Bakken,
todays crude is arriving with more volatile gases and
vapors than ever.
Rose said his company, and railroads across the country, are
concerned with three critical safety components: preventing
derailments, mitigating their severity and mobilizing
response measures effectively.
While BNSF meets current US Department of Transportation
standards, it goes beyond by maintaining its own broad-based
risk reduction program. Rose said the company has seen record
capital investment to ensure a reliable network, supported by
employee training, compliance, and the proactive
identification of track and equipment defects.
Our actions will ensure that we transport crude safely
and build public confidence in our efforts, said Rose.
Thats the price of admission for the benefit of
domestic energy production.
In the process of working to make crude shipping by rail as
safe as possible, even with lagging and unclear regulatory
guidelines in some areas, the next major question to be
addressed is how best to handle volatile compounds. According
to Rose, the industry has two options to proceed: reduce
vapors prior to transport, for shipping in existing cars, or
strengthen new cars appropriately.
While regulators are currently working to produce rules for
new tankcar standards, there are still questions as to which
way the industry, and the government, will go. When comes to
gas extraction, or the beefing up of cars used to carry
crude, there are a host of economic consequences and EPA
issues with which to contend.
Rose estimated that 30,000 to 50,000 next-generation tankcars
will be needed to handle crude in the future, with the
production of the first cars possible by January. A full
roll-out and transitioning of the existing fleet would take
several years, but, Rose said, that is normal for new technology
At the end of the day, weve got to be able
to look at communities in which we operate and say, We
get it, its all about preventing
derailments, said Rose. But, our second leg
is mitigation. And we think that improving the tankcar
standard would go a long way, while, and this is really
important, were choosing not to reduce the volatility
of the crude at origin. If we want to change that volatility,
then, quite frankly, I will have a much different
conversation around the quality of the tankcar that we need
to haul it. If we want to change the commodity stricture to
something that looks like that, we dont need this next
generation tank car.
While BNSF is kick-starting progress on the next generation
of tankcars at this point, Rose said it still remains an act
of faith as to whether or not the government will follow suit
in the future, when it comes to regulations.