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Energy Sector Focuses on Improving Oil-by-Rail Safety

by Sentry Energy Production LLC

Journalists, activists, and politicians have often focused their attention on oil and gas pipelines, but a recent report from the Energy Information Administration shows that this focus may be misplaced. In 2014, 1 million barrels of oil traveled by rail daily in the United States, an increase of over 1,800 percent since 2010. This enormous growth has led to more accidents, however, and derailed trains create huge economic and environmental headaches. In response, train companies, tank experts, and other industry specialists have begun seeking a variety of solutions to increase the safely of the rail network.
While numerous research projects have focused on cleaning up oil after a spill, preventing the accident in the first place is a preferable solution. To that end, rail operators have begun to deploy (often thanks to government mandates) technologies like Positive Train Control (PTC), a system that relies on the Global Positioning System (GPS) to oversee human operators and correct mistakes. Other solutions include new braking systems, like electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes, two-way end-of-train devices (EOTD), or distributed power solutions. Finally, while ordinary inspection and assessment regimens will remain in place, companies have begun looking into automated monitoring techniques to oversee the condition of trains as they move across the country, using lasers, temperature detectors, and acoustic sensors to identify potential problems or defects before they cause an accident.                            
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