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US Department of Transportation proposes major rule for the safe transportation of LNG by rail

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LNG Industry,

The US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), has announced that it is publishing a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the transportation of LNG.

The proposed rule will seek comment on changes to the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) to authorise the transportation of LNG by rail in the DOT-113 specification tank cars.

The NPRM is a result of President Trump’s April 2019 Executive Order recognising the leading role the US plays in producing and supplying LNG, and the need to continue to transport this energy resource in a safe and efficient way. Under Secretary Elaine L. Chao’s leadership, the Department has prioritised safety as well as supporting the economic benefits of enhanced transportation options for American energy resources.

“Safety is the number one priority of PHMSA and we understand the importance and will make it a top priority to evaluate all public comments and concerns raised throughout the rulemaking process,” said PHMSA Administrator Skip Elliott. “This major rule will establish a safe, reliable and durable mode of transportation for LNG, while substantially increasing economic benefits and our nation’s energy competitiveness in the global market.”

“FRA shares regulatory oversight responsibility for the safe transportation of hazardous materials by rail,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory. “This rulemaking is consistent with our systemic approach to accident prevention, mitigation and emergency response preparedness.”

Currently, LNG may only be transported via rail in a portable tank with an approval from FRA. However, the HMR does authorise the DOT 113 specification tank car for other flammable cryogenic liquids. It is specifically designed for the transportation of refrigerated liquefied gases. This design specification may be similarly suitable for the transport of refrigerated liquid methane (LNG).

The Executive Order recognised the growth of energy production in the US, coupled with a growing domestic and international demand for natural gas. Transportation of LNG by rail is a potentially viable alternative to pipelines, which are not always able to meet the demand of, or reach, certain areas in the US that are accessible by rail. Additionally, there are many potential benefits of transporting LNG by rail, including the safety benefits inherent to rail transport and the use of approved tank cars, fuel efficiency, fuel accessibility to remote regions, increased US energy competitiveness and fewer emissions.

Safety is the Department’s number one priority and during the comment period, the agency will continue to collect and analyse data on rail cars, ensuring that any rulemaking will utilise the latest data in establishing safety standards.

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