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Rail Tank Car Total Containment Fire Testing: Results and Observations

[+] Author Affiliations
Francisco Gonzalez, III

Federal Railroad Administration, Washington, DC

Anand Prabhakaran, Andrew Robitaille

Sharma & Associates, Inc., Countryside, IL

A. M. Birk

Queens University, Kingston, ON, Canada

Frank Otremba

BAM, Berlin, Germany

Paper No. JRC2016-5833, pp. V001T02A012; 8 pages
  • 2016 Joint Rail Conference
  • 2016 Joint Rail Conference
  • Columbia, South Carolina, USA, April 12–15, 2016
  • Conference Sponsors: Rail Transportation Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4967-5
  • Copyright © 2016 by ASME


The frequent incidences of Non-Accident Releases (NARs) of lading from tank cars have resulted in an increasing interest in transporting hazardous materials in total containment conditions (i.e., no pressure relief devices). However, the ability of tank cars to meet thermal protection requirements provided in the Code of Federal Regulations under conditions of total containment has not been established. The intent of this effort was to evaluate through a series of third-scale fire tests, the ability of tank cars to meet the thermal protection requirements under total containment conditions, with a particular focus on caustic ladings. A previous paper on this effort described the test design and planning effort associated with this research effort.

A series of seven fire tests were conducted using third scale tanks. The test fires simulated fully engulfing, hydrocarbon fueled, pool fire conditions. The initial tests were conducted with water as a lading under jacketed and non-jacketed conditions and also with different fill levels (98% full or 50% full). Additionally, two tests were conducted with the caustic, Sodium Hydroxide as the lading, each test with a different fill level. In general, the tanks with water were allowed to fail or reach near-failure conditions, whereas, the tests with the caustic lading were not allowed to proceed near failure for safety reasons. This paper describes the results and observations from the fire tests, and discusses the various factors that affected the fire test performance of the test tanks.

Review of results from the one-third scale tests, and subsequent scaling to full-scale suggest that a full-scale tank car filled with 50% NaOH solution is unlikely to meet the 100-minute survival requirement under conditions of total containment.

Copyright © 2016 by ASME



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