Tesoro Corp. said Monday it’s upgrading its crude oil rail car fleet by adding 210 enhanced tank cars that exceed new standards issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation earlier this month.
The announcement comes as Tesoro, a petroleum refiner, and Savage Cos., a transportation company, propose building what would be the nation’s largest rail-to-marine oil transfer terminal at the Port of Vancouver. The companies are working in partnership as Vancouver Energy.
In an email to The Columbian on Monday, Jennifer Minx, a spokeswoman for Tesoro, said the enhanced rail cars, which are modified DOT 120 cars, will be placed “into the regular rotation for our shipments, which would likely include Vancouver Energy and our Anacortes unloading facility.”
Minx declined to comment on the total number of cars in Tesoro’s fleet, saying the figure is “commercially sensitive, but we can say it’s right-sized based on our operational needs.” Tesoro’s announcement Monday echoes statements the company made in February 2014. That’s when it said it had begun replacing older cars in its oil rail car fleet with safer, post-October 2011 cars, also known as CPC 1232s.
In the middle of 2014, Minx said, Tesoro “phased out our last legacy” DOT 111 cars, known to have flaws, from carrying crude oil. She said Vancouver Energy is committed to accept only CPC 1232 or better cars at the oil terminal proposed at the port.
The National Transportation Safety Board says the CPC 1232 design fails to offer significant safety improvements. Several of the recent oil train disasters involved CPC 1232 rail cars.
Minx said Tesoro’s fleet has “continually improved” since the company ordered its first set of CPC-1232 cars in 2011, “three years before federal rulemaking was announced.” She said the company was “the first to upgrade our crude oil fleet to consist entirely of the newer CPC 1232 rail cars. As we’ve added to our fleet, it’s been with cars that offer additional safety enhancements. We expect to continue this practice.”
In its news release, Tesoro said its new enhanced rail cars, classified as DOT 120s, have many of the same safety features as the new federal standards, known as the DOT 117 design, issued earlier this month. Those features include 9/16-inch shell thickness; thermal protection; full-height head shields; high-flow pressure-relief valves; protected top fittings; and upgraded bottom outlet valves.
However, Tesoro said, its new enhanced rail cars offer additional safety features, including “a thicker tank head; protective housing for the manway; and two times the rated tank test pressure.”
To develop the enhanced rail cars, Tesoro said, it worked with Union Tank Car Company, which is building and leasing the cars to Tesoro. Tesoro said Union Tank Car has “substantially completed the first group of enhanced cars, which are expected to be in service this year once enough cars have been delivered to form a full unit train.”
Tesoro said it collaborated with Union Tank Car to modify the design of the DOT 120, which “is built according to pressure car standards,” rather than to “enhance the design of the CPC 1232,” which is built “according to general service car standards.”
In her email to The Columbian, Minx said: “Once we take delivery of the new DOT 120 cars, the majority of our fleet will be jacketed.”