By John Osborne, UT staff
Washington DC-In a bid to improve the way chlorine is transported a coalition of chlorine manufacturers has formed the Chlorine Rail Tank Car Development Coordination Panel. Occidental Chemical Corp., the Dow Chemical Company, US Magnesium llc, and Bayer MaterialScience said they intend to replace their entire US and Canadian chlorine tank car fleets by the end of 2017 with new rail tank cars that will "feature significantly enhanced safety and security attributes."
The coalition claims that its new effort is "a logical progression to the next generation of safe and secure rail tank cars." In a statement it said that multiple safety enhancements "have been incorporated into the current generation of tank cars and they are performing well, with a strong record of performance in accident situations."
However according to a story written by Gregory Richards and published in 'The Virginian-Pilot' on 15 Oct 2006 there have been "a string of deadly railroad accidents involving chemical releases" in the US.
Paul Johnston is a principal scientist at Exeter University and carries out contract work for environmental group Greenpeace. He said that accidents involving the transport of chlorine are more likely to occur in the US because more is carried there by rail than in Europe. Johnston said that currently nine million tonnes of chlorine is produced every year in Europe. "Only 10 per cent of that is transported from the production site". He said some is carried through pipelines.
Although less chlorine is moved by rail in Europe every year than in North America, Dr Johnston said that an accidental release of chlorine into the atmosphere would still be serious. "It was used as a chemical weapon in World War I," he pointed out.
Chlorine is used in the production of isocyanates, which are major raw materials for polyurethane manufacture. "