LNG container of Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. at Shin-Fuji Station, Kushiro.
07 Nov 2023

The US imposes a ban on bulk transport of LNG by rail effective October 31 2023


The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) is suspending a rule that previously allowed liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be transported by rail in specialized tank cars, starting 31 October 2023.


Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons License: LNG container from Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. at Shin-Fuji Station, Kushiro
28 April 2010, 15:33: Author Chatama


The US Department of Transportation made these decisions through the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), according to a September 12 article on K&L Gates. 

This final rule overturns a rule from the Trump era which allowed for the bulk transport of LNG by rail.

To clarify further: LNG and cryogenic liquids similar to LNG have been transported by highway and rail for decades within the United States, according to the article: 

However, the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) did not authorize the bulk transport of LNG in rail tank cars, except by special permit.

"On 24 July 2020, PHMSA published a final rule titled “Hazardous Materials: Liquefied Natural Gas by Rail” (85 FR 44994). The final rule allowed the bulk transport of LNG under certain circumstances, namely when tank cars are enhanced with a thicker carbon-steel outer tank, equipped with remote pressure and location monitoring, and have added safety measures in place such as route risk assessment."

In the original document from the US Federal Register, "Hazardous Materials: Suspension of HMR Amendments Authorizing Transportation of Liquefied Natural Gas by Rail", we can read that "PHMSA, in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), is amending the Hazardous Materials Regulations to suspend authorization of liquefied natural gas (LNG) transportation in rail tank cars pursuant to a final rule published on July 24, 2020, pending the earlier of either completion of a companion rulemaking evaluating potential modifications to requirements governing rail tank car transportation of LNG, or June 30, 2025. This final rule is effective on October 31, 2023."

In the document, the February 2023 train derailment in East Palestine, which led to a controlled release of vinyl chloridide,  is especially mentioned as an incident worth studying, as to how the incident may pertain to LNG:

"The PHMSA is working with the National Transportation Safety Board to learn all it can from this incident and determine whether the lessons learned should inform rail transportation of other hazardous commodities such as LNG".