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DOT Suspends Authorization for LNG in Rail Tank Cars

Posted on 9/5/2023 by Roseanne Bottone, Roger Marks and Nick Waldron

Updated 9/5/2023:

PHMSA and the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) have suspended authorization of liquefied natural gas (LNG), UN 1972, in rail tank cars until June 30, 2025—or until the agencies can write a new rule to modify the requirements for bulk transport by rail—whichever comes first. LNG may also be transported as "methane, refrigerated liquid" or "natural gas, refrigerated liquid."   

The Final Rule takes effect October 31, 2023

Shippers may continue to offer LNG in rail tank cars under certain special conditions:  

  • As authorized by a PHMSA special permit (see 49 CFR 107.105), or 
  • in a portable ISO tank secured to a rail car with FRA approval (see 49 CFR 174.63).

PHMSA and FRA authorized bulk transport of LNG with a Final Rule published in July 2020. Following the Federal election later that year, the incoming administration proposed to suspend the authorization until they could modify the 2020 rule. 

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Comments on LNG in Rail Tank Cars  

In thousands of public comments US DOT has received on this issue to date, commenters express concern surrounding LNG rail transportation, with some calling for an immediate, permanent ban or prohibition. 

Many comments refer to the February 2023 East Palestine, Ohio train derailment incident, in which 20 rail cars carrying hazardous materials left the tracks and caused the evacuation of locals, a shelter-in-place order, and a days-long emergency response effort. 

That derailment did not involve liquefied natural gas, some fear that allowing bulk transport of LNG by rail could cause incidents like it to occur more frequently.

DOT Suspends Authorization for LNG in Rail Tank Cars

Original Article (Published 11/15/2021)

On November 8, 2021, US DOT PHMSA proposed a rule to suspend authorization for transportation by rail of liquefied natural gas (LNG), also known as "methane, refrigerated liquid" (UN 1972).

PHMSA authorized bulk transportation of LNG in certain DOT specification 113 tank cars with enhanced outer tank requirements in a July 2020 Final Rule.

US DOT will accept public comments on the proposed suspension until December 23, 2021.

Read the Proposed Rule.

Why was LNG Transported by Rail Tanker Car Rule Revisited?

Executive Order 13990 requires Federal agencies to review regulations and other actions taken during the previous administration that might be considered for suspension, modification, or rescission because of inconsistency with the current Administration's policies and goals.

The White House specifically identified the LNG by Rail final rule as one of these candidates.

In the final LNG Rail Car Authorization rule published in July of 2020, PHMSA stated that it may adjust the HMR's regulatory framework governing rail tank car transportation of LNG as more information became available from its oversight activities or by June 30, 2024. (See 85 FR 44995).

For more detailed information, see the Table 1—Summary of DOT-SP 20534, NPRM Proposals, and Final Rule Components in the Federal Register Section I. Overview. (Technical details under consideration are in section IV. Summary and Discussion of Comments to the Rulemaking Docket, A. Tank Car Design.)

Tags: hazmat shipping, LNG by rail, UN 1972

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