CHAR Technologies Ltd. LOI for Acquisition of The Altech Group and Private Placement to Support Advanced Biomass Fuel

CHAR Technologies Ltd. (“CHAR“) (TSX VENTURE:YES) recently announced that it has signed a non-binding letter of intent (“LOI“) to acquire the Altech Group (“Altech“), which is comprised of Altech Environmental Consulting Ltd. and Altech Technologies Systems Inc. Altech provides solutions to environmental engineering challenges.  Founded in 1986, Altech has 12 employees and a diverse and stable client base.  Under the terms of the LOI, CHAR would acquire all issued equity in Altech.  Altech shareholders would receive $950,000 in common shares of CHAR, with the number of common shares anticipated to be determined using the 30-day volume weighted average price of the CHAR common shares prior to November 17th, 2017, as well as $150,000 in cash.  In connection with closing, CHAR will institute an employee retention plan where current non-shareholder Altech employees will be issued an aggregate of $100,000 of common shares (the “Equity Grant“) at a price determined in accordance with the policies of the TSXV over a period of 13 months with any unvested grants to terminate should the relevant employee cease to be employed by Altech. Closing is anticipated to take place on or before December 31, 2017.

Bill White, Chairman of CHAR stated that, “The acquisition of the Altech Group would add over 30 years of experience in environmental technologies and professional engineering consulting” and that “Altech would provide CHAR with a growth catalyst to move much of our engineering design in-house, while at the same time would allow us to greatly expand our technology solutions offering for industrial clean air and clean water.”

CHAR brings the shareholders of Altech a succession plan and an opportunity to realize value at an optimal time. According to Alexander Keen, Founder and CEO of Altech, “CHAR would bring an exciting new technology and a corporate development team. Our joint efforts going forward would bring tremendous opportunities”.

It is anticipated that the new joint enterprise will have a tremendous advantage in commercialization of a new cleantech solid fuel branded “CleanFyre”. This new product is a GHG neutral coal replacement, generically referred to as biocoal. CleanFyre will allow large industrial customers the ability to greatly reduce their GHG emissions without significant capital expenditures. According to Andrew White, CEO of CHAR, “CleanFyre would leverage both Altech’s experience and expertise, and CHAR’s platform pyrolysis technology, the same technology used to create SulfaCHAR, to create a solution with strong market pull and significant growth opportunity.”

The completion of CHAR’s acquisition of Altech is subject to the satisfaction of various conditions, including the negotiation of a definitive agreement and the completion of the parties respective due diligence. Although CHAR anticipates that the transaction with Altech will be consummated, the LOI is non-binding and there is no certainty that the transaction will be consummated.

CHAR is also launching a non-brokered private placement of common shares that will raise capital to support the continued commercialization of SulfaCHAR as well as CleanFyre. The offering will consist of a minimum of $250,000 and a maximum of $1,000,000. Pricing will be $0.21 per common share or, $0.25 per share for investors who wish to acquire flow-through common shares pursuant to the offering. The private placement is anticipated to close on or about December 31st, 2017.

About CHAR

CHAR is in the business of producing a proprietary activated charcoal like material (“SulfaCHAR“), which can be used to removed hydrogen sulfide from various gas streams (focusing on methane-rich and odorous air). The SulfaCHAR, once used for the gas cleaning application, has further use as a sulfur-enriched biochar for agricultural purposes (saleable soil amendment product).

Asbestos & Disaster Relief Precautions

By Alison Grimes, MAA Center

2017 has proven to be an unfortunate memorable year of natural disasters.  Across the globe, countries including Afghanistan, China, Colombia, The Democratic Republic of the Congo Mexico, Peru, Sierra Leone, South Asia, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and more, have all suffered heartache and destruction as a result of natural disasters.

The United States even experienced the hardship of more than 50 separate weather, climate and flood disasters, above the 10-year average of 45 disasters.  With hundreds and thousands of lives affected, fast action and relief saves lives. However, although quick relief is important, safety and health should not be taken for granted.

Aerial view of flood damage from Hurricane Harvey (Photo Credit: Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle)

Disaster Relief Precautions

Following a natural disaster, first responders, insurance adjusters, and contractors are called upon to re-build or repair damage in the home or workplace.  To ensure safety with relief and reconstruction, the following precautions and best practices will ensure good health and well-being, long after a natural disaster.

Asbestos

While managing flood recovery and other natural disaster reconstruction, asbestos is not often thought of.  Although entirely natural, asbestos is very harmful to health, leading to cancer such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and more.  There is no safe level of asbestos exposure and once asbestos fibers are consumed by way of inhalation or ingestion, health concerns can develop anywhere between 10-50 years later.  Therefore, it is important to consider the age of a structure before performing a repair.

Flood Damage Asbestos Abatement (Photo Credit: Patriot Abatement Services)

Asbestos use was widespread during the early 1930s with heightened use during the mid to late 1970s throughout the 1980s.  Its fire-resistant properties, abundance and malleability made it a popular additive in many products used in construction such as tiling, insulation, cements, caulking, heating ducts, roofing, siding, drywall and more.  When such products or materials that contain asbestos are properly encapsulated or enclosed, they will not pose harm to health, however in the case of natural disasters and water damage, the risks of being exposed to asbestos increase as a result.

 Mold

Natural disaster relief zones are breeding grounds for mold, which can begin to develop in as little as 48 hours.  Similar to asbestos, mold is often forgotten about during repairs and disaster relief.  When mold forms, spores enter the air and are easily inhaled, causing skin, eye and nasal passage irritation, wheezing and respiratory health concerns.  Considering the harm associated with mold exposure, it is essential to first dry any wet, humid or damp areas to prevent mold growth.  Additionally, any existing mold should be remediated by a specialist to ensure that all mold spores are eradicated. Control and prevent mold growth by limiting humidity levels, fixing leaky roofs, windows and pipes, cleaning and drying wet areas, and ensuring proper shower, laundry and cooking area ventilation.

 Awareness and training are two essential steps to ensure successful and safe, disaster relief.  However, asbestos and mold are only two concerns to be mindful of,  as lead, silica, PCBs, particulate matter and other hazardous building materials pose great harm to health as well.  Moreover, first responders and all others called upon during disaster relief, must prioritize self-care techniques to prevent burnout and secondary traumatic stress.

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About the Author

Alison Grimes is a Health Advocate at the Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Centre (MAA Center).  The MAA Center is an independent group working to help mesothelioma patients, caregivers, advocates, and others looking to learn more about the disease.

Class Action suit filed against CN Rail for derailment

As reported in the Sudbury Star, a Timmins law firm has sent a letter out to Gogama area residents and cottagers advising that a class-action lawsuit has been filed against CN Rail in connection with the derailment of an oil tanker train and subsequent oil spill that occurred on March 7, 2015.

The letter, signed by James Wallbridge of Wallbridge, Wallbridge Trial Lawyers of Timmins, was to advise residents to sign retainer agreements or to indicate whether or not they wish the law firm to proceed on their behalf.

The derailment and oil spill occurred in the area of the Makami River bridge, on the CN mainline near the village of Gogama, a town in Northeastern Ontario located between Timmins and Sudbury.  An eastbound CN Rail train hauling 94 tank cars had a derailment after riding over a broken rail. In all, 39 tank cars left the track.  Some of the cars fell into the river next to be bridge, exploded and burst into flame. Several of the cars were breached releasing many hundreds of thousands of litres of synthetic crude oil into the river and the surrounding environment.

Gogama train derailment

Wallbridge’s letter said the claim against CN Rail was filed back in July and that there are indications that the clean-up of the oil spill in the area is not properly done yet.

“We are advised by Fred Stanley of Walters Forensic Engineering that the cleanup continues notwithstanding CN and the Ministry of the Environment’s view the oil spill cleanup is complete,” said the letter.

Wallbridge went on to suggest that more environmental testing would be needed early next year.

“We are of the view that next spring may be an appropriate time to review the work that has been done and undertake independent testing. We have spoken to the Ministry of Environment’s legal counsel about testing and have indicated that we anticipate their cooperation in reviewing the overall cleanup.”

Wallbridge also advised that his firm has indicated that the timetable for the class action should be “held in abeyance” pending a review of the cleanup in May and June of 2018.

He said his firm elected to proceed by class action to preserve the limitation period of two years from the date of the occurrence. The class action serves to suspend the limitation period during the certification process, the letter said.

The Gogama-Makami River derailment was the second CN oil train derailment in that area in the winter of 2015. Both occurred along the section of the CN mainline known as the Ruel Subdivision. Another train hauling tank cars had derailed three weeks previous, on Feb. 14, 2015, in a remote bush and wetlands area, about 35 kilometres north of Gogama.

Canada’s Transportation Safety Board filed a report in August saying that a broken section of rail was the cause of the derailment at the Makami River bridge.

Advance Technology Camera spots hidden Oil Spills

As reported in the New Scientist, a new kind of polarising camera is available that can detect otherwise invisible oil sheens.

Like many oil imagers, the Pyxis camera sees the infrared radiation emitted by all objects.  That is important because there is often a temperature difference between oil and water.  However, if there isn’t one, thermal imagers don’t work.  So the Pyxis also detects differences between the way oil and water scatter light.  Thanks to this differing polarisation, it works not only when the oil and water are the same temperature – but also in pitch darkness.

Infrared polarimetry has been used in astronomy to help identify distant stellar objects. Polaris Sensor Technologies, based in Alabama, has modified the technology for a new use.

“The optical system and the physics behind it are very complex,” says David Chenault, President of Polaris Sensor Technologies.  “We started building infrared polarimeters several decades ago, but they were bulky and not capable of looking at dynamic scenes.” Only in the past few years did it become possible to significantly shrink the sensor – now roughly the size of a fist – and make it capable of imaging moving scenes. That is important for detecting oil on water.

The new camera can see spills invisible to the naked eye from 2 kilometres away.  Its size means it can be mounted on a small drone or other robot.

Doug Helton of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Emergency Response Division says these cameras could augment NOAA satellite networks, which detect and track suspected oil spills.  While they can spot even small spills, visual confirmation is crucial to rule out false positives. “Wind shadow may look like an oil slick,” he says.

Confirmation is usually done by people in a helicopter or plane, so that is where a drone-mounted camera could save a lot of time.

The camera can also spot and track oil washed up on beaches. Typically, this is a time-consuming task that must be done by people on the ground.

The sensor passed extensive tests with crude oil and diesel in different wave conditions at the massive Ohmsett test facility pool in New Jersey and at an actual spill off Santa Barbara, California, in 2015.  Russell Chipman at the University of Arizona says this is a significant development. “The costs of polarimeters are decreasing,” he says, and the miniaturisation and commercialisation of infrared polarimetric sensors means this technology can now be deployed widely to detect all kinds of oil slicks.

While Polaris is currently concentrating on oil detection, more applications for the camera are likely to be discovered when it goes into mass production, anticipated early next year.

 

New spill rules tag transport companies with response, recovery costs in B.C.

As reported by Dirk Meissner of the Canadian Press, the Government of British Columbia has introduced pollution prevention regulations to hold transport companies moving petroleum products across the province responsible for the costs of responding to and cleaning up spills.

Environment Minister George Heyman said recently that the new regulations will take affect at the end of October and apply to pipeline, railway and truck company owners and transporters moving more than 10,000 litres of liquid petroleum products.

The rules increase responsibility, transparency and accountability for operators who transport potentially dangerous products through B.C., he said.

“I would hope that business doesn’t believe that individual members of the public through their tax dollars should be responsible for cleaning up spills they incur in the course of doing business and making a profit.”

The aim of the new rules is to prevent spill sites from being left contaminated for months and sometimes years, Heyman said, noting companies will be required to submit spill response and recovery plans ahead of moving their products.

“Most people subscribe to the polluter pay principle,” he said. “These regulations also require that spill contingency plans be put into place and that recovery plans and reporting plans be implemented in the case of a spill. That’s just reasonable.”

CN Rail said in a statement that it continues to work with the B.C. government and its industry partners on emergency response and preparation plans. The railway transports oil and numerous other products, including grain, across B.C.

“Emergency and spill response preparation and training is an important part of our business,” the statement said. “CN has in place emergency response plans and conducts spill and emergency response training with stakeholders across our network.”

The B.C. Trucking Association said in a statement that it supports the province’s new rules.

“We have been actively engaged in working with the government on the development of these regulations because the safety of our drivers, the public and the environment is our number one priority,” the statement said.

New pollution prevention regulations will hold transport companies and pipeline operators moving petroleum products across British Columbia responsible for spill response and recovery costs. A pipeline at the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, with an oil tanker in dock on Burrard Inlet.

Last spring, the previous Liberal government amended the Environmental Management Act to include some of the new regulations, but Heyman said he further tweaked the polluter pay regulations to ensure annual public reporting by the government.

He said he also shortened the deadline for operators to put their spill contingency plans in place to one year for trucking companies and six months for railways and pipelines.

The new rules do not apply to marine vessels carrying petroleum products along the B.C. coastline.

“Marine spills are regulated by the federal government but there is some jurisdiction for the province if a marine spill ends up washing onto the shoreline of B.C.’s jurisdiction or the seabed,” Heyman said.

The province is developing a strengthened marine response and recovery program that complements federal spill regulations, he added.

The new regulations come on the one-year anniversary of a fuel spill off B.C.’s central coast, where a tug sank, spilling more than 100,000 litres of diesel into waters near the Great Bear Rainforest.

Marilyn Slett, chief of the Heiltsuk First Nation, said the sinking of the tug, Nathan E. Stewart, has had devastating social and economic impacts on her community.

A valuable fishing area remains closed a year after the spill and many Heiltsuk face the prospect of a second year without revenue from the area’s valuable shellfish species, she said.

by Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

U.S.: FEMA Releases Refreshed National Incident Management System Doctrine

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently released the refreshed National Incident Management System (NIMS) doctrine.  NIMS provides a common, nationwide approach to enable the whole community to work together to manage all threats and hazards. NIMS applies to all incidents, regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity.

In April and May 2016, FEMA held a 30-day National Engagement Period, in which stakeholders submitted nearly 3,000 comments and provided feedback on the draft NIMS update, ensuring that it reflects the collective expertise and experience of the whole community.

FEMA will host a series of 60-minute webinars with stakeholders to discuss the updates in the refreshed NIMS and answer questions related to NIMS. All webinars are open to the whole community. For webinar dates, times, and registration information, please go here: https://www.fema.gov/latest-news-updates.

The refreshed NIMS retains key concepts and principles from the 2004 and 2008 versions, while incorporating lessons learned from exercises and real-world incidents, best practices, and changes in national policy.

Download the refreshed NIMS here: www.fema.gov/nims-doctrine-supporting-guides-tools

The refreshed NIMS:

  • Retains key concepts and principles of the 2004 and 2008 versions of NIMS;
  • Reflects and incorporates policy updates and lessons learned from exercises and real-incidents;
  • Clarifies the processes and terminology for qualifying, certifying, and credentialing incident personnel, building  a foundation for the development of a national qualification system;
  • Clarifies that NIMS is more than just the Incident Command System (ICS) and that it applies to all incident personnel, from the incident command post to the National Response Coordination Center;
  • Describes common functions and terminology for staff in Emergency Operations Centers (EOC), while remaining flexible to allow for differing missions, authorities, and resources of EOCs across the nation; and
  • Explains the relationship among ICS, EOCs, and senior leaders/policy groups.

NIMS guides all levels of government, nongovernmental organizations (NGO), and the private sector to work together to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from incidents. NIMS provides stakeholders across the whole community with the shared vocabulary, systems, and processes to successfully deliver the capabilities described in the National Preparedness System. NIMS defines operational systems, including the Incident Command System (ICS), Emergency Operations Center (EOC) structures, and Multiagency Coordination Groups (MAC Groups) that guide how personnel work together during incidents. NIMS applies to all incidents, from traffic accidents to major disasters.

Please refer to the descriptions below to gain an understanding of where to locate certain information.

NIMS Doctrine Supporting Guides & Tools: The National Integration Center develops supporting guides and tools to assist jurisdictions in their implementation of the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

Training: The NIMS Training Program defines the national NIMS training program. It specifies National Integration Center and stakeholder responsibilities and activities for developing, maintaining and sustaining NIMS training.

Resource Management & Mutual Aid: National resource management efforts aid a unified approach in building and delivering the core capabilities across all five mission areas (Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response and Recovery).  Effective resource management is founded on the guiding principles of the NIMS.

Implementation Guidance & Reporting: Federal Departments and agencies are required to make adoption of NIMS by local, state, territorial, and tribal nation jurisdictions a condition to receive Federal Preparedness grants and awards.

NIMS Alerts: The National Integration Center announces the release of new NIMS guidance, tools, and other resources through the distribution of NIMS Alerts.

FEMA NIMS Regional Contacts: The FEMA Regional NIMS Coordinators act as subject matter experts regarding NIMS for the local, state, territorial, and tribal nation governments within their FEMA Region, as well as for the FEMA Regional Administrator and staff.

Incident Command System Resources: The Incident Command System (ICS) is a fundamental element of incident management. The use of ICS provides standardization through consistent terminology and established organizational structures.

Harnessing the regulation of Maritime Dangerous Goods

As reported in Hellenic Shipping NewsTT Club (a leading provider of insurance and related risk management services to the international transport and logistics industry ) and the  International Cargo Handling Coordination Association (ICHCA) have drawn attention to the state of packing in the intermodal supply chain and the need for greater rigour by all stakeholders to improve safety.

Shipping containers at the Port Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal in New Jersey, USA (Photo Credit: Captain Albert E. Theberge)

At the recent meeting of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Sub-Committee on the Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC), ICHCA and TT Club made a submission concerning the inspection programmes for Cargo Transport Units (CTUs) implemented by national governments.

Analysing the reports submitted to IMO in previous years, TT Club established that the number of member states reporting, in comparison with those in membership of IMO, has always been less than 10% and currently stands at about 2.5%. Further, the number of inspections performed has never exceeded 80,000, and currently represents something less than 4 per 100,000 packed containers moved.

Deficiencies
The submission drew out two key concerns from the deficiencies found in this small sample. First, there is an apparently deteriorating trend for ‘Placarding and Marking’ failures, which is the key visual risk alert for all supply chain stakeholders. Wrongly placarded units can create a major hazard, as exemplified at a terminal facility in Vancouver in 2015 when a container packed with dangerous goods caught fire, as well as fundamentally undermine the handling of the numerous incidents on board ship.

Perhaps more importantly, ‘Stowage and Securing’ deficiencies, which TT Club has repeatedly reported to be causative in many cargo related incidents, average in excess of 20%.

At ICHCA’s seminar in April 2017 on dangerous goods, hosted by TT Club, reports were given of widespread disregard of dangerous goods regulations, with one shipping line revealing that many shippers use alternative terms for dangerous goods (DG) to avoid surcharges and having to comply with additional measures, including any ship or port restrictions, as well as the regulations themselves.

Calculating the actual number of dangerous goods shipments is complex, but some estimates are that declared volumes comprise up to 10% of all container movements. UNCTAD calculates in its Review of Maritime Transport 2016 that there were approximately 180 million TEU movements in 2016. Assuming 60% of 180 million TEU equates to actual CTUs, 50% of those are laden, of which 10% contain declared dangerous goods, then approximately 5.4 million units annually are packed with dangerous goods.

The state for non-DG…?
It might also be assumed that more care and attention is given to consignments of declared dangerous goods; it may be expected that deficiencies would be more prevalent where more detailed regulations are not deemed to apply. Thus, the findings reinforce experience that packing and securing remains an enormous issue in the unit load industry.

“The findings reinforce experience that packing and securing remains an enormous issue in the unit load industry”
Whilst the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code is mandatory, the CTU Code is not, albeit it is referenced from the IMDG Code and International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). The evidence from recent events is that awareness of the CTU Code is very low and therefore compliance with good practice will be poor.

Cargo Integrity Campaign
It is for this reason that TT Club has teamed with Global Shippers Forum , ICHCA and World Shipping Council to promote the importance of the CTU Code. This ‘Cargo Integrity’ campaign started at European Shipping Week earlier this year, which the IMO Secretary General and Senior Deputy Director attended, and continued during the CCC sub-committee meetings and most recently at the ICHCA 65th Anniversary Conference in Las Palmas. In each instance, the key messages are aligned to the stakeholders in the audience – whether governments, shippers, terminals or carriers – identifying key responsibilities that they can discharge to improve safety in the intermodal supply chain.

“The level of national government reporting is insufficient to draw concrete conclusions by which to steer IMO’s work, improve compliance or increase safety”
In response to a number of suggestions made in the submission to CCC, the sub-committee recognised that the level of reporting is insufficient to draw concrete conclusions by which to steer its work, improve compliance or increase safety, albeit that the absence of reporting should not necessarily lead to the conclusion that inspections are not being carried out. At least one Maritime Administration, which had not reported in recent years, committed to make the CTU inspection regime more robust, as well as to submit a report to the next meeting of CCC in September 2018.

Strengthening compliance culture
CCC also noted the analysis provided by TT Club and ICHCA, inviting governments to provide information on the experience and lessons learned from the application of national CTU inspection programmes. Further, concern was expressed about the high rate of deficiencies and the lack of adherence to the provisions of the IMDG Code.

The TT Club/ICHCA submission also suggested that consideration be given to advances in scanning technologies that may permit improved and risk-based inspections to be carried out more effectively. While not specifically debated, there was general encouragement for the industry and governments to develop more specific ideas for consideration.

In the meantime, the IMO Secretariat committed to improve the ease of reporting, utilising its GISIS methodology, together with recognising that Maritime Administrations could link up the findings of industry inspections that are carried out to the same standard. It is to be hoped that inspection programmes will be ramped up in the coming months in order that more credible data can be shared, as well as engendering an improved culture of compliance globally.

“It is to be hoped that inspection programmes will be ramped up in order that more credible data can be shared, as well as engendering an improved culture of compliance globally”

We hope that you have found the above interesting. If you would like further information, or have any comments, please email us, or take this opportunity to forward to any colleagues who you may feel would be interested.
 

Surviving the OSHA Audit: Common Sense Solutions

Imagine for a moment it’s Monday morning. You’ve just arrived to work and you’re enjoying your first cup of coffee. Unexpectedly, you receive a call from the receptionist. The U.S. Occupation Safety and Health Administration (U.S. OSHA) has just arrived and they’d like to meet you to discuss a safety complaint they’ve received from an employee. Your day just got a little bit more complicated! So, what should you expect during the OSHA visit? What questions should you ask and perhaps more important, what should you avoid? What will OSHA want to see during their visit? Will they ask you for paperwork? Do you have that paperwork?

Within this book, respected OSHA consultant, David A. Casavant takes you behind the curtain and reveals exactly what happens during an OSHA inspection, rules for behavior during the audit and perhaps more importantly, what you can do now to comply with the often-complicated U.S. OSHA regulations. This essential guide simplifies complex regulatory law, provides commonsense strategies for compliance and should be included in every safety professional, risk manager, or attorney’s toolbox.

The author of the book, David A. Casavant is the Executive Director of the Sustainable Workplace Alliance, a 501(c)(3) not‐for‐profit organization dedicated to Health & Safety in the workplace. He is an authorized OSHA 500 & 501 trainer and in 2007, 2008 and 2010 his organization was awarded the prestigious Susan Harwood training grant from the U.S. OSHA. He has been a featured speaker at World WorkPlace, American Management Association, Rockhurst University, NeoCon, SkillTV, Total Facility Management Forum and the NFM&T conference. Additionally, Mr. Casavant has written hundreds of business related articles. His articles can be found in a number of trade publications including the Facility Management Journal, Buildings, PlantServices, SkillTV and Building Operating Management.

Soft cover, 313 pages
Copyright © 2017
ISBN 978-0-9987437-0-7

You can order the book through the American Society of Safety Engineers website.

Technology to prevent rail disasters is in our hands

Author: Chris Bachmann, Assistant professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Waterloo

As the trial of the 2013 Lac-Megantic rail disaster begins, new policies and practices that aim to employ better technology could help avoid similar disasters in the future.

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) found more than 18 distinct causes and contributing factors in the Lac-Megantic derailment investigation, which makes the likelihood of this type of accident seem nearly impossible.

An unattended 74-car freight train carrying crude oil ran away and derailed, resulting in the deadly fire and explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, in July 2013. (Photo Credit: CBC)

Yet other derailments in Canada involving dangerous goods would soon follow in 2014 in Plaster Rock, N.B. and Clair, Sask., and two incidents in 2015 in Gogama, Ont.

This suggests that we must be mindful of the connection between human interactions and technology and how each will continue to underlie many causes and contributing factors of future incidents.

As a civil engineering professor who researches transportation infrastructure, dangerous goods and risk, I see several new developments and changes to technology and policy that can help to reduce future accidents.

Safer tank car standards

The type of tank cars involved in the Lac-Megantic accident (“Class 111”) were known to be vulnerable to failure, even in low-speed accidents (e.g., Cornwall, Ont. in 1999).

After Lac-Megantic, Canada and the United States developed a more robust tank car standard, Class 117. This new standard features improved puncture resistance, structural strength and fractural resistance.

Despite these improvements, Canadian and U.S. regulations will still allow Class 111 tank cars to be used for the transport of certain dangerous goods until mid-2025.

Even so, Canada accelerated the phase-out of the older Class 111 tank cars from being used for crude oil service in Canada as of Nov. 1, 2016, under Protective Direction 38.

Enhanced braking

In addition to new tank car standards, the U.S. is requiring enhanced braking standards on trains carrying flammable goods.

Any train with a continuous block of 20 tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid, or 35 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid dispersed throughout a train, must have a functioning two-way end-of-train (EOT) device — an electronic unit that can be mounted on the end of a freight train instead of a caboose — or a distributed power (DP) braking system, which spreads braking across different points throughout a train.

Furthermore, any train with 70 or more loaded tank cars containing flammable liquids travelling at speeds greater than 48 km/h must be operated with an electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking system by May 1, 2023.

In short, these technologies enable more controlled braking behaviour through a more responsive and uniform application of brake pressure. Benefits would include shorter stopping distances, lower risks of derailment and lower pile-up effects in the event of a derailment.

More information sharing

Technology also allows more information sharing for better decision-making. For example, Protective Direction No. 36 in Canada requires railways to provide municipalities with dangerous goods reports, including information on the number of unit trains, percentage of railway cars transporting dangerous goods, information on their nature and volume and number of trains.

This information is intended to inform emergency planning and responses.

The U.S. is also requiring more accurate classification of unrefined petroleum-based products to ensure proper classification, packaging and record-keeping through a documented sampling and testing process. This information is to be made available to the Department of Transportation upon request.

Human factors

The technology to prevent rail disasters is in our hands — just as it was in 2013. While these and future technologies are likely to reduce the risks of transporting dangerous goods across Canada and the United States, the interactions between humans and other elements of the system — the “human factors” — will remain predominant.

As we now know in the Lac-Megantic accident, the train carrying 7.7 million litres of crude oil sped toward the small Quebec town at 104 km/h before derailing, killing 47 people in the resulting fire and explosions on July 6, 2013.

Hours before derailing, the train was parked and left running on the main track in Nantes, Que., awaiting departure. But shortly after the engineer parked the train, a locomotive engine caught fire and was turned off by the Nantes fire department.

Without power from the running locomotive engine, air slowly leaked from the air brake system. An insufficient number of handbrakes were applied and the train eventually began rolling downhill on its final journey toward Lac-Megantic.

Some of the causes and contributing factors in the Lac-Megantic rail disaster were not technical failures so much as they were failures of humans to properly interact with technology: To properly maintain a locomotive engine, to have knowledge of interactions between locomotive engines and air brake systems and to properly set and test the effectiveness of handbrakes.

Although technical standards were less stringent in 2013, technology did not fail us. In many of the causes and contributing factors of Lac-Megantic, it is evident that we failed to understand and interact with our technology.

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This article was originally published on The Conversation. Disclosure information is available on the original site. To read the original article:

https://theconversation.com/technology-to-prevent-rail-disasters-is-https://theconvers

About the Author

Chris Bachmann is an Assistant professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Waterloo.  His research interests include the interaction between transportation and economics, trade, energy, transportation network resiliency/criticality/robustness/vulnerability, risk, dangerous goods movement, transport economics, transport project and policy evaluation.

ASL wins pollution response vessel orders

ASL Shipyards in Singapore has won a contract to build three pollution response vessels, whose design leans heavily on escort tug architecture. Western Canada Marine Response Corp ordered the three response vessels to protect Canada’s west coast.

ASL Spill Response Vessel

The vessels will increase offshore spill response capabilities for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. ASL will build these vessels to Robert Allan’s BRAvo 2500 design, which uses elements of the naval architect’s experience in designing escort tugs.

These 25 m vessels will be pollution response platforms custom-designed to meet the formidable environmental conditions and demanding requirements of Canada’s west coast.

They will act as a mothership to other smaller vessels during the response to spills, and be capable of deploying containment equipment, transferring components between vessels, and will store oil in internal tanks or offload oil into barges.

These vessels will have Caterpillar C9.3 main engines and two Caterpillar C4.4 service generator sets. They will be classed by Lloyd’s Register and built to meet Transport Canada requirements.

Robert Allan worked on the design of these vessels, including the use of computational fluid dynamics, since the start of this year. It used its designs for the RAstar series of offshore escort tugs for the hull form and hull sponsons. The vessels will have large bilge keels, twin skegs and a bulbous bow.

For oil containment, they will have Kepner self-inflating offshore booms stored on a large powered reel and a Current Buster 4 sweep system. BRAvo 2500 vessels will have an aft swim platform that allows easy access to the water surface for recovering and deploying equipment with the vessel’s crane.