NY stages fire training drill for fuel spills

Associated Press (via beaumontenterprise.com)| May 7, 2014 | Mary Esch

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — While the Cuomo administration steps up firefighter training in preparation for any potential oil train disaster, at least one community group is skeptical the effort will protect residents near rail lines from crude oil explosions and fires.

Firefighters spray fire suppressant foam to douse flames on a tanker truck in a simulated oil spill fire during a drill on Wednesday, May 7, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. Firefighters are getting some practice battling crude oil fires as part of stepped-up efforts by the Cuomo administration to address safety threats from increased rail shipment of highly flammable crude from North Dakota to East Coast refineries. The Port of Albany has become a major hub for crude oil transport, with oil trains arriving daily on routes that cross the state from the west and north. Photo: Mike Groll, AP

Firefighters spray fire suppressant foam to douse flames on a tanker truck in a simulated oil spill fire during a drill on Wednesday, May 7, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. Firefighters are getting some practice battling crude oil fires as part of stepped-up efforts by the Cuomo administration to address safety threats from increased rail shipment of highly flammable crude from North Dakota to East Coast refineries. The Port of Albany has become a major hub for crude oil transport, with oil trains arriving daily on routes that cross the state from the west and north. Photo: Mike Groll, AP

Albany firefighters Wednesday hosed foam on propane-fueled flames shooting from a tanker rigged as a training prop behind the city's trash recycling plant, as part of a two-day emergency preparedness exercise.

James Cable of the state Division of Homeland Security said the drill was one of dozens held around the state each year to train for fires involving flammable liquids, including ethanol, gasoline, and now crude oil shipped by rail from North Dakota's Bakken Shale to coastal refineries.

The federal government says nine oil train derailments have occurred in the U.S. and Canada since March of last year. The latest was last week, when a CSX train carrying Bakken crude derailed in Lynchburg, Virginia, sending three tank cars into a river and shooting flames into the air. No one was injured.

In the past two years, Albany's port on the Hudson River has become a major hub for rail and barge shipments of Bakken crude. Mile-long trains of oil tankers moving through densely populated neighborhoods have raised concerns among residents and local officials. They fear a fiery derailment like the ones seen elsewhere in the past year.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has taken steps to address the danger posed by oil trains, including increasing emergency preparedness training, conducting more inspections of train cars and tracks, and calling for tougher regulations from the federal government.

But some Albany residents observing Wednesday's drill were skeptical.

"There's no preparation they can do for an oil train explosion," Susan Weber of People of Albany United for Safe Energy said. "The only thing they can do is respond after the fact and sweep up the dust from the burned bodies."

Sandy Steubing, also with the community group, noted that firefighters at Lynchburg, Virginia, and other derailment sites have let the fire burn itself out after crude oil spilled from derailed tanker cars.

New York Homeland Security Commissioner Jerome Hauer said firefighters have the technology to extinguish such a fire but may choose to let it burn out to keep the oil from polluting waterways or to protect firefighters from the risk of additional explosions.

"This is a very volatile material that we don't have a lot of experience with," Hauer said

http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/business/energy/article/NY-stages-fire-training-drill-for-fuel-spills-5458778.php#photo-6271547

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commented 2014-05-08 09:22:10 -0400 · Flag
David, you would have laughed or cried if you saw the process in person. All these men going have a single flame that had not been contained is nothing like the pics I’ve seen of any of the explosions.
commented 2014-05-08 01:42:42 -0400 · Flag
I don’t know why a guy like “Hauer” with his self-reported lack of experience would ever comment in the first place. His statements are nothing but misleading word games. Seriously? Let a fire burn that you could contain and extinguish – whereby alleviating all human casualty and mass property damage threat – just so a little more oil doesn’t get in the river? Oil that is an LNAPL at least today that would float and could be boomed, etc.?

Is “Hauer” seriously implying that those firefighters in Lynchburg, VA could have put the fire out at will, but chose not to as to prevent some more oil from getting into the river?? I’d love to be a fly on the wall and hear this guy say that to their faces. But maybe I am wrong. I’d love to know.

There have been decades of tanker car explosions, chemical explosions, propane explosions, crude oil explosions… the U.S. is well aware of the materials involved and what happens. The physics don’t change just because the oil comes from North Dakota. “Crude Oil” is simply a generic term, not a chemical one. Crude oil does not combust, chemicals and compounds do. How about we start talking chemical fractions at appropriate temperatures and pressures and leave the mystic jargon aside once and for all?

Also, I would contend that some firefighters may have the technology, but OUR firefighters damn sure don’t.

I hope our firefighters do what everyone else should do within a half mile or more from an incident site with a massive fire… run.

So, getting to the real content of the training…
A) I hope a tanker car NEVER is anywhere near any kind of combustion
B) I don’t believe one would ever see a situation as controlled as in the picture unless it was a training exercise.

First of all in all the derailments with fires/explosions, how many involved tanker cars were still upright? How many were standing all by their lonesome on a nice flat surface with easy access and sure footing?

The venting vapor out the top of the rail car that has ignited (should sound like a jet engine in your face) is a huge issue. Venting vapor means boiling liquid inside. Venting vapor means less liquid inside to absorb the heat from the direct flame outside the tanker car (visible fire under the rail car that the fire crew is trying to quench). Less liquid inside eventually means steel taking the full brunt of the direct flame. Steel fails. Tanker car explodes (BLEVE). Everyone in that picture dies instantly.

Good news is there is a second hose out of the picture trying to keep the skin of the tanker car cool (on top where there would be no liquid inside the tanker car in contact with steel anymore, because it already vaporized and vented out the roof vent) to prevent metal fatigue of the tanker car which would lead to rupture, then explosion. Bad news is those guys would die instantly too.

I truly hope if such a situation were to occur in New York, those guys in the picture think more than twice about approaching such a situation from merely 15’ away.

I’d love for someone more knowledgeable to better inform my semi-educated observations. Seriously.

PS – I hope those are protein-based foams they used today. :)
PAUSE, People of Albany United for Safe Energy
PAUSE is a grassroots group of individuals who have come together to promote safe, sustainable energy and fight for environmental justice. We engage the greater public to stop the fossil fuel industry’s assault on the people of Albany and our environment.