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API publishes set of recommended practices for crude-by-rail

The American Petroleum Institute (API) this past week published a new set of recommended practices for testing and classifying crude oil for rail shipment and loading it into rail tank cars.

API’s Recommended Practice for Classifying and Loading of Crude Oil into Rail Tank Cars, known as RP 3000, provides guidance on the material characterization, transport classification, and quantity measurement for overfill prevention of petroleum crude oil for the loading of rail tank cars.

It applies only to petroleum crude oil classified as Hazard Class 3—Flammable Liquid under the US Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at the time of publication. The document includes:

  • Procedures for initial and ongoing sampling and testing of crude oil for transport classification.

  • Criteria for determining the frequency of crude oil sampling and testing, and how to document results.

  • How to assign the correct Packing Group.

  • Establishing a crude oil sampling and testing program.

  • Guidance on determining the loading target quantity (LTQ) of crude oil transported by rail tank car. This includes crude oil temperature and density determination, identification of sampling points based on loading scenarios, and measurement equipment and processes.

API will initially make the standard available at no charge to interested parties via

API first began publishing standards in 1924 and currently has more than 650 standards and technical publications. More than 100 of them have been incorporated into US regulations, and they are the most widely-cited industry standards by international regulators. The program is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).



The wolf is designing the chicken fence?


I agree. To say I don't trust the API is an understatement. If I'm mayor of a town, I might want to have my fire department made aware of every shipment through my jurisdiction. and, I might want to perform random inspections for safety compliance.


One of the problems with light oil coming out of North Dakota is vapor pressure. Pressure builds up with heat and the cars are not made to handle that.


We are only talking about 8 psi here; but, the major problem is old tank cars that are not structurally strong. So, when there is a derailment they fail and the contents are emptied by the pressure.


Ship it north and use it as a diluent for Athabasca bitumen.  That gets rid of the vapor-pressure problem.



I was not suggesting that they would blow apart, pressure can go as high as 15 psi and the cars were designed for less. It is best not to "read into" someones statements.


"Light, sweet oil from the Bakken Shale had a far higher vapor pressure—making it much more likely to throw off combustible gases—than crude from dozens of other locations."

"Bakken crude actually is a mixture of oil, ethane, propane and other gaseous liquids, which are commingled far more than in conventional crude."


"Don Hartley, regional coordinator for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, said the tank cars originated in North Dakota. Three cars had a "'bleve' - where pressure builds up and blows a hole." That started the fire, he said."



If you were mayor, it would be smart to have your emergency responders well trained but you would have not authority to conduct inspections as that is the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) jurisdiction.

The Bakken crude is so called light, sweet crude which is the more desired crude and while it is more flammable than heavier crudes, it is not as flammable or dangerous as other materials being transported. Every few days, we have a unit train (~100 cars) of sulfuric acid go thru town. Also, gasoline, propane, chlorine, ethanol, and ammonium nitrate are all transported by truck and train.

The really dangerous material in my opinion is LNG. Sooner or later we will have a major accident with a large LNG tanker but hopefully not in the US. I did the math on this once and the largest ocean going tankers have about a mega-ton TNT equivalent energy potential. Hiroshima was less than 20 kilo tons so these tankers have about 50 times more energy potential.

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