Wednesday, August 9, 2017

HR 3435 Introduced – Crude Oil Vapor Pressure

Last month Rep. Lowey (D,NY) introduced HR 3435, a bill that would establish crude oil Reid Vapor pressure standards for the shipment of crude oil by rail. The bill is virtually identical to HR 2379 that was introduced in the 114th Congress. No action was taken on that earlier bill.

The bill would immediately establish a maximum Reid Vapor Pressure limit of 8.5 psi for all crude oil shipped by rail. The DOT would then be required to establish “establish an appropriate national standard for the maximum volatility of crude oil to be permitted to be shipped by rail” {new 49 USC 20169(b)}. No guidance is provided on what would constitute ‘an appropriate national standard’.

Moving Forward

Lowey is not a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to which this bill was assigned for consideration, but her co-sponsor {Rep. Garamendi (D,CA)} is. This means that there is a remote chance that the bill could be brought up in Committee. It is highly unlikely that the bill will receive consideration due to oil industry opposition. Since the initial RVP standard set in this bill is the average value reported out of the Bakken oil fields, it would severely reduce oil shipments from those fields (the bills intention).


The fact that this bill would rely on the Trump Administration to establish an ‘appropriate national standard’ without providing legislative guidance on that standard provides a clear indication that this is a pro forma introduction with no expectation that the bill will pass into law. Further, the introduction of the bill just before the summer recess (particularly when it is nothing more than a copy of a previously ignored bill) is a clear indication that Lowey and Garamendi produced the bill to ‘show’ their supporters that they are doing something about crude oil shipments.

As I have mentioned in an earlier post the Reid Vapor pressure test required by this bill has a number of technical problems associated with it. There is a good technical article that describes those problems and more effective test for predicting the problems with the rapid rise in pressure due to fire impingement that has led to some of the overpressure situations seen in some Bakken crude oil train wreck.

I would think that most transportation safety people would agree that some sort of reasonable limit on the vapor pressure of crude oil, particularly a standard related to the rate of pressure rise in a fire impingement situation, would help to reduce some of the incidents of explosive fires that we have seen in some crude oil train incidents. Having said that, the Reid Vapor Pressure testing required by this bill is totally inadequate to that task.

No comments:

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */