Wednesday, December 11, 2019

PHMSA Issues LNG by Rail Special Permit

Today the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) published a notice in the Federal Register (84 FR 67768-67769) announcing that it had approved a special permit [.PDF download link] for the transportation of liquified natural gas (LNG) by rail. PHMSA published an environmental assessment and a draft of the special permit back in June. The special permit issued last week has significant changes from the draft that were based upon comments received on the proposed permit and the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for allowing transportation of LNG by rail.

New Special Conditions

Today’s notice outlines the operational controls that were added to the Special Permit. They include:

• Each tank car must be operated in accordance with §173.319 except as specified in paragraph 7a of the permit;
• Shipments are authorized between Wyalusing, PA and Gibbstown, NJ, with no intermediate stops.
Within 90 days after issuance, the grantee shall prepare and submit a plan providing per shipment quantities, timelines, and other actions to be taken for moving from single car shipments to multi-car shipments, and subsequently to unit trains (20 or more tank cars).
• Trains transporting 20 or more tank cars authorized under this special permit must be equipped and operated with a two-way end of train device as defined in 49 CFR 232.5 or distributed power as defined in 49 CFR 229.5.
• Prior to the initial shipment of a tank car under this special permit, the grantee must provide training to emergency response agencies that could be affected between the authorized origin and destination. The training shall conform to NFPA-472, including known hazards in emergencies involving the release of LNG, and emergency response methods to address an incident involving a train transporting LNG.
• While in transportation, the grantee must remotely monitor each tank car for pressure, location, and leaks.

The paragraph 7(a) requirements refer to the packaging limitations for the DOT 113C120W railcars. They include:

• Maximum permitted filling density – 32.5% (regulation authorizes 51.1% for ethylene);
• Maximum authorized operating pressure when offered for transportation – 15-psig (regulation authorizes 20-psig for ethylene); and
• Remote sensing for detecting and reporting internal pressure, location, and leakage (not required in regulation).

The Special Permit also imposes specific reporting requirements on the permit holder. These periodic reports include:

• Prior to first shipment – progress on the manufacture and delivery of railcars as well as scheduled first shipment date;
• During the life of the permit – quarterly reports on the number of shipments made under this permit; and
• Incident reports – written reports about “any incident involving a package or shipment conducted under terms of this special permit” {para 12a}.

Public Comments

PHMSA is soliciting public comments on this special permit. Comments should be filed under the docket for the LNG by Rail NPRM (; docket #PHMSA-2018-0025). That docket closes on December 23rd, 2019.


I am glad to see that PHMSA included a remote sensing requirement in this special permit. I had suggested a similar monitoring requirement in my comments submitted to the NPRM docket. I am a little bit disappointed that PHMSA did not include a temperature monitoring requirement, but pressure is the main safety consideration.

The permit language is a tad bit too vague about where the monitoring will take place and who is responsible for that monitoring. What is important, and should be carefully explicated in the NPRM, is the need for continuous monitoring while the cars are in transit and the ability to immediately contact both the affected train crew and local emergency response agencies if the monitoring detects a potential or actual transportation emergency.

I am very disappointed that the Special Permit did not specifically require the shipper and the carrying railroad to treat unit trains of LNG as High Hazard Flammable Trains (HHFT) under 49 CFR 171.8. Having said that, since the permit is for a specifically limited route and the shipper is required to provide LNG response training to all affected emergency response agencies along that route, the application of the HHFT rules may be overkill. That would not be the case with a blanket LNG by rail authorization envisioned in the NPRM.

No comments:

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