Monday, May 7, 2012

Federal Railroad Administration Warning Regarding Odorants In LPG Shipments

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued Safety Advisory 2012-01 to remind shippers and consignees of railroad tank cars containing odorized liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) of the importance of taking actions to ensure that a sufficient level of odorant remains in the LPG throughout the entire transportation cycle. FRA issued this notice to raise awareness within the hazardous materials community, of the potential consequences of having LPG reach endusers as under-odorized or essentially non-odorized material due to the diminishment of the added odorant during the transportation cycle (commonly known as “odorant fade”). This safety advisory recommends that shippers and consignees of bulk quantities of odorized LPG review their existing LPG odorization standards and procedures, and take appropriate actions to guard against odorant fade in their shipments.

The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR), Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Parts 171-180, allow use of the proper shipping name, “liquefied petroleum gas” (or LPG), for a number of petroleum gases with properties similar to propane. Much of the LPG loaded and shipped in the United States by railroad tank car is from bulk suppliers to either industrial end-users or to “midstream” suppliers who then sell and redistribute the LPG to commercial, retail, and general public end-users.

In 2010, LPG represented less than 9% of all loaded hazardous materials tank car shipments originating in the United States. Because LPG is a colorless and odorless gas, odorants are normally added to the material (with the exception of LPG being shipped to industrial end-users) in the liquid phase to enable human detection when its vaporized gases are released in the atmosphere. The majority of LPG produced for non-industrial uses is odorized by bulk providers of the material. The presence of LPG in the consumer supply chain, with either diminished levels of odorant or no odorant present, represents significant safety risks. Absent sufficient odorization of the commodity, LPG leaks can go undetected and ignite.

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