Monday, March 17, 2014

VAN to Monitor Air Emissions from Bakken Crude Oil Trains

      VAN will begin the first citizen’s scientific monitoring program (that we can find) of air emissions including butane, propane, methane, benzene, and other hydrocarbons  from the Bakken crude oil trains currently coming through Vancouver, WA as soon as we have funding to purchase/ rent the equipment that we need.  Will you help us reach our fundraising goals?   Donations are being accepted at all weekly VAN volunteer meetings. 

Equipment we will use:
1) FLIR Gasfindir hydrocarbon video camera.  There are plenty of videos on Youtube which show how this camera works.  It is the most underutilized tool in the industry.  

2) Summa Canister air monitoring.

Summa canisters are small airtight metal containers. The sampling canister is sent to the field under vacuum and certified leak-free. The canister fills with air at a fixed flow rate over a preset period of time with use of a flow controller. The appropriate preset period should be determined on a case-by-case basis. For example, in residential settings, the period is typically 24 hours. In commercial and industrial settings, samples are normally collected over 8 hours to correspond to an average workday. After the canister is filled, it is sent to an analytical laboratory under the appropriate chain-of-custody protocol and analyzed. Very low detection limits, in the sub­parts per billion volume (ppbv) range are possible.

Courtesy of ALS Environmental.


Currently the US Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration are the only agencies that have rail inspectors even looking at these crude oil rail cars and they aren’t allowed to do scientific monitoring of their emissions—reference CFR 173.24(b) (1) So no one is looking at this air pollution problem.  Here is the Oregonian newspaper article which inspired VAN to start a citizen monitoring program for leaking and off gassing oil trains.  

The industry calls it “burping” so they admit it is happening.  The Bakken oil shippers are  intentionally leaving propane in the oil to “fluff” it up so instead of putting 100% crude into the tank cars they are putting (in theory) 75% crude and 25% gas which makes their profits bigger and we, the communities, take all of the risk of exploding oil trains, environmental devastation, and at the least unhealthy air emissions.   

These "burping" oil train emissions are a “significant revision” to the proposed Tesoro-Savage Oil Export Terminal permit application in Vancouver, WA.   Once we show that these emissions can be monitored then they need to be added into the proposed Tesoro- Savage Export Terminal permit application process as they are not currently addressed.   The permit doesn't even mention these rail car emissions and incorrectly suggests that emissions from mobile sources (the diesel train locomotive engine only) are currently monitored.  There is NO monitoring of "off gassing" or "burping" oil rail cars. The application states that Tesoro-Savage will "heat" the crude oil cars to make the oil flow more freely (so the train won't be mobile at this point) which will only increase the potential off gassing of unburned hydrocarbons into the air at this facility to unhealthy and potentially explosive levels. References- Section 3.2 Air and Section 5.1 Air Emissions Permits and Authorizations

VAN's monitoring program will in effect force the government to admit a problem and begin monitoring these emissions and the data will show that these oil trains are not safe therefore shutting down this crude export project (until monitoring is completed) and changing the way that crude oil is shipped in this country.  

Call the Washington state governor and Washington state US Senators and ask them to require that preliminary monitoring of these oil railcar emissions be started RIGHT NOW so that baseline data can be gathered to better inform the railside communities and fix this incomplete permitting process.   
Governor (800) 562- 6000  Senators (202) 224- 3441 and (202) 224- 2621 
or send them some emails-,,,
VAN will also form an Oil Train Monitoring network to help us know when the oil trains are stopped in Vancouver so we can take pictures and videos and conduct scientific monitoring of trains from public property which is completely legal.   If you live close to the tracks or see oil trains stopped in the Vancouver area we need to get a phone call from you at the number listed on this page.  Stay tuned for more info in how you can participate in this key component of our monitoring effort.  We will also be providing "on the job" training in how to use the equipment and any supportive community members are welcome to attend any monitoring expeditions.   Will you help us reach our fundraising goals?   Donations are being accepted at all weekly VAN volunteer meetings.  Look for meeting information at the top right of this blog. 

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