Manufacturers and operators of the US fleet of DOT-111 tank cars argue that these cars are perfectly safe to ship crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota.
A consensus has been emerging in recent months that these cars are at least partially to blame for a series of oil spills and fires on railways in North America. These include the Lac-Megantic, Quebec derailment and deadly fire in 2013, and a CSX train that derailed in Richmond, Virginia (VA) last month, which resulted in at least one car breaking open and spilling crude into the James River.
The refiners’ lobby, which includes the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), say that there is too much focus on the alleged weaknesses of the DOT-111 general purpose oil tank car and also on the specific properties of crude oil that is fracked in the Bakken shale region of the country. The refiners say that the oil tanker is safe to haul oil, which is the opposite of what many regulators, railroaders and investigators say. They maintain that the DOT-111 car and Bakken oil are too risky together.
Many oil refiners maintain that no tank car could have survived the derailment at Lac-Megantic in Montreal, which occurred at 64 MPH. They say that it is impossible to design a tank car that is not going to rupture in that situation. The only option would be to make the tank cars extremely heavy but it would not be able to carry much oil.
Also, they maintain that products that are more hazardous than Bakken oil are more hazardous and are often transported in DOT-111 cars with no concern at all.
Still, it seems likely that over the next decade, the DOT-111 tank car is going to be phased out, and a newer and stronger car will be brought online.