Aerial view of the derailment (Photograph courtesy of BNSF)
14 Nov 2023

Using thermally resistant gaskets could reduce the severity of hazmat releases in train derailments - NTSB report


The National Transportation Safety Board in the United States has issued an overview of its report on the Jan. 8, 2022 BNSF derailment in Texas.  More than a half million gallons of denatured ethanol was released.


Photo Credit: Aerial view of the January 8, 2022 Texas HazMat derailment (Photograph courtesy of BNSF).


HazmatNation.com has published a a synopsis from the NTSB’s report which does not include the Board’s rationale for the findings and safety recommendations.

On January 8, 2022, about 9:49 a.m. local time, an eastbound BNSF Railway Company train derailed 37 tank cars at milepost 156.2 on the BNSF Railway Company Red River Division in Oklaunion, Texas.

The BNSF Railway Company estimated that 601,819 gallons / 2,3 millions liters of denatured ethanol released from 28 of the 37 derailed tank cars. The ethanol ignited and burned uncontrolled for about 4 hours, resulting in a pool fire. No injuries or evacuations were reported.

One of the findings of the NTSB was that the gaskets used in the service equipment were made of materials that are vulnerable to damage when exposed to fire

Using gaskets made of more thermally resistant materials would likely increase the survival time of tank cars exposed to fire and reduce the severity of hazardous material releases.

The document then lists 7 findings regarding gasket safety.

As a result of this investigation, the NTSB  recommended that the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration work together to develop and publish both benchmarks and thermal performance standards for gaskets used in tank cars transporting flammable liquids. 

It was also recommended that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration revise the DOT-117 tank car specification to ensure that these tank cars use appropriate thermal protection systems, and that the Association of American Railroads update its certification process to ensure that tank cars comply with this revised specification.