Greenbrier Unveils New Rail Car Design for Oil, Ethanol Transport

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The Greenbrier Companies will design what it calls the "tank car of the future" that will provide a safer mode of transporting oil and ethanol by rail.

A railroad transportation equipment and service provider will design a new generation “Tank Car of the Future” for the transport by railroad of crude oil, ethanol and other flammable freight that can better withstand the additional demands associated with operating unit trains.

The Greenbrier Companies is proposing the new design in response to criticisms of the existing legacy fleet of older DOT-111 tank cars. The new design is intended to meet anticipated new industry and government standards for tank cars transporting certain hazardous material, the company said in a statement.

The new design will incorporate thicker heads and more welding equipment for production lines to make bigger welds for the thicker tank, a company representative told Rigzone. The company believes it can deliver the first of these new cars in 12 to 18 months. Ideally, the first delivery will take place sooner, but this is subject to material, supply and other factors, as well as regulatory guidance. The company will build the cars using its existing construction capacity, and believes it can build 2,500 to 3,000 of these new tank cars of the future in North America.

According to industry research, the bottom and top appurtenances on the legacy DOT-111 tank cars are impacted in high speed derailments. Greenbrier’s proposed retrofit is targeted to improve these tank car features, and adds head shields, to achieve better performance in a derailment event.

The company’s experience in designing pressure cars – which are used to transport hazardous freight other than crude oil and ethanol – will help the company in its design effort on the "Tank Car of the Future" for non-pressurized hazardous service, including oil and ethanol transportation. Pressure cars exceed current tank cars standards for cars that transport crude and ethanol, and all new tank car standards that the Association of American Railroads (AAR) has recently considered.

The Lake Oswego, Oregon-based company also is introducing retrofits for legacy DOT-111 cars or newer cars built after October 2011 – when AAR introduced the CPC-1232 standards – to ensure that they meet the current CPC-1232 mandated by the Association of American Railroads (AAR). The company said these retrofits would significantly enhance the safety of existing cars.

Retrofit options for legacy DOT-111 cars will include high-flow pressure relief valves, head shields, top fittings protection and thermal protection. These retrofits could allow for extended service of DOT-111 tank cars as these cars are placed in lower risk service over time. The company will offer a retrofit package for newer CPC-1232 cars that includes high-flow pressure relief valves and improved bottom outlet valve handles for any CPC-1232 cars in crude and ethanol service that were not originally equipped with these features.

According to data from AAR, 99.9977 percent of all rail-carried hazardous material arrives at its destination without incident. However, recent high-profile derailments have clearly demonstrated the need for updating the North American tank car fleet to the highest practical safety standards, Greenbrier Chairman and CEO William Furman said in a Feb. 5 press release.

The surge in Bakken crude oil production has created demand for additional tank cars to transport oil. The company’s design is part of an attempt to be aggressive in creating a solution for the industry, the company spokesperson said.

“Greenbrier is addressing the tank car safety issue on two fronts – by supporting the 'Tank Car of the Future' and through offering retrofit alternatives for the legacy fleet, including our most recently built CPC-1232 tank cars, as may be appropriate,” Furman commented. “This allows the industry to take immediate steps to improve public safety. It also preserves the massive investment in tank cars now in service, by extending the time these cars could be used in hazardous material transportation as they ultimately transition over time to a less hazardous service.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation has yet to rule on industry recommendations to adopt the CPC-1232 standards submitted to them in March 2011. These were subsequently mandated by the AAR on tank cars ordered after October 2011.

As of November 2013, 272,100 DOT-111 tank cars were in service in North America, including 255,000 built according to the older legacy design. Among those tank cars, 170,000 were used in hazardous transport, with 68,000 tank cars in crude oil and ethanol service.

Furman said Greenbrier anticipates the "Tank Car of the Future" and retrofit offerings will comply with anticipated Class I rail carrier requirements as well as pending regulatory actions by the United States and Canadian governments.

Greenbrier’s retrofitting work, as part of its Wheels, Refurbishment & Parts segment, will not materially impact production rates for newbuilds as part of its Manufacturing segment.

The company can produce 4,000 tank cars a year in North America, and will increase its capacity due to higher demand for tank cars related to the U.S. shale boom. As of Nov. 30, 2013, 47 percent of the company’s backlog consisted of tank cars based on the CPC-1232 design standards and pressure cars. Greenbrier no longer manufactures DOT-111 tank cars for transporting flammable freight.

The series of accidents involving trains transporting crude in the United States and Canada have prompted the governments of both countries to issue recommendations for preventing future accidents, The New York Times reported Jan. 24.  


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