Monday, January 13, 2020

HR 5553 Introduced – Crude Oil Vapor Pressure

Last week Rep Garamendi (D,CA) introduced HR 5553, the Crude by Rail Volatility Standard Act. The bill would set a Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) maximum of 9.5 psi for crude oil shipped by rail. The bill is very similar to HR 1679, proposed by Garamendi in the 114th Congress; no action was taken on that bill.

Reid Vapor Pressure

Section 2(a) of the bill would set the 9.5 psi limit for all crude oil shipments. The language in the 2014 bill set that standard only for Bakken Crude Oil. Both versions of the bill implied that this standard was the same standard used for crude oil future contracts on the New York Mercantile Exchange. As I noted in 2014, there was only one crude oil future contract that listed that standard while at least three others did not have any RVP standard.

Rulemaking Requirement

While the 2014 bill authorized DOT to take actions necessary to enforce the RVP requirements, HR 5553 requires DOT to complete the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) rulemaking initiated in 2017. That advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) was initiated in response to a petition for rulemaking from the Attorney General for the State of New York. That rulemaking is still listed on the Unified Agenda with a listing of ‘Next Action Undetermined’ in the Action column.

One of the information gathering initiatives described in that ANPRM was a study of crude oil volatility to be conducted by Sandia Laboratory. That study was completed last summer.

Moving Forward

Garamendi is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to which this bill was assigned for consideration. He is not a member of the Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee which would be expected to take first action on the bill. None of his four cosponsors, all Democrats are on the Committee.

It seems unlikely that the full committee would take up this bill without initial action by the Subcommittee, thus the bill would likely not see action in Committee. If the bill were considered it would likely be approved on a near party-line vote. This would mean that the bill would unlikely be considered under the suspension of the rules process in the full House; the leadership typically only uses this process for bills with substantial bipartisan support due to the super majority requirement for passage. If the bill were passed in the House it would not be brought up in the Senate due to Republican opposition to the provisions.


I discussed the problems with the RVP test method in my post on HR 1679. I agree in general that vapor pressure is an important consideration to be taken into account in assigning transportation restrictions on flammable materials. What is important, besides selecting a reproducible test method (which RVP is not), is measuring the temperature that results in a vapor pressure of 35 psig, the pressure relief standard for railcars and trucks. That temperature should be used in packing group determinations for flammable liquids and gasses. Unfortunately, that would be an expensive test, and current PHMSA rules require each crude oil railcar to be tested for determining packing groups.

I discussed my concerns with the Sandia Report when it was published last summer. While I agree with the limited conclusions drawn from the report, it is not a helpful document for legislators or regulators as it does not address the temperature/pressure relationship of various crude oils at the critical 35 psig setting for pressure relief valves. It does provide important emergency response related information, but it has little bearing on the issues set forth in this bill.

No comments:

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