National Academies Press: OpenBook

Emergency Response Procedures for Natural Gas Transit Vehicles (2005)

Chapter: Chapter Four - Transit Experience with Natural Gas

« Previous: Chapter Three - General Considerations for Emergency Response
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Four - Transit Experience with Natural Gas." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2005. Emergency Response Procedures for Natural Gas Transit Vehicles. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23328.
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Page 11
Page 12
Suggested Citation:"Chapter Four - Transit Experience with Natural Gas." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2005. Emergency Response Procedures for Natural Gas Transit Vehicles. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23328.
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Page 12

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11 ANECDOTAL INFORMATION ON TRANSIT INCIDENTS INVOLVING NATURAL GAS Anecdotal information available on incidents with natural gas-fueled transit buses is shared at periodic meetings of the Transit User’s Group, which operates under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy and the Clean Vehicle Edu- cation Foundation (formerly part of the Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition). There is no requirement that incidents involving natural gas transit vehicles be reported to a central authority or clearinghouse. Nor is there a robust definition of what con- stitutes an incident. Therefore, there are no official statis- tics on the number of natural gas-related incidents or on incident rates. General Causes of Natural Gas Fuel Releases The most common cause of large fuel releases from a CNG bus has been the operation of a PRD on the fuel tanks. Nat- ural gas releases have also occurred from failures in fueling connections and fueling station equipment. In the case of LNG, smaller gas releases may occur owing to the effect of large temperature changes on the tightness of fuel system fit- tings and connections. General Causes of Bus Fires Although exact fire statistics for U.S. transit fleets are not available, it is believed that most bus fires are caused by the following: • Oil leakage on hot engine parts—for example, turbo- charger or exhaust manifold; • Electrical system short circuits; • Turbocharger failures; • Bearing failures; • Brake problems; and • Overheated catalytic converters or exhaust stacks. These factors are consistent with a recent detailed study of transit and other bus fires in Finland (3). SURVEY ON TRANSIT INCIDENTS INVOLVING NATURAL GAS AND ON EMERGENCY RESPONSE PROCEDURES Many individual transit agencies track natural gas-related incidents or have information on the number of fuel-related incidents of a given type—for example, fuel releases, vehi- cle fires, or other fuel-related problems. Scope and Objective A survey was conducted to gather information on natural gas-related incidents and to determine the status of emer- gency response procedures for responding to transit emer- gencies involving the use of natural gas. The objective of the survey was to identify current practices for emergency responder procedures and the experiences of transit agencies with implementing those procedures. FTA’s 2002 National Transit Database was used to identify those transit agencies that use natural gas as a fuel, and the survey questionnaire was sent to those 52 agencies. The questionnaire is repro- duced in Appendix B. Results A total of 19 replies were received, a 37% response rate. All of the respondents were transit agencies that are now operat- ing natural gas buses. The responses covered a total of 3,130 natural gas buses, of which 2,163 were operated by three tran- sit agencies serving communities in Southern California. A detailed summary of the responses to the questionnaire may be found in Appendix C. Some comments on the responses follow. The most frequent responders to these incidents were tran- sit mechanics (92%); the fire department responded to more than half of the incidents. More than half of the responding transit agencies reported that they had distributed emergency procedures to local fire departments and less than one-quarter to local police depart- ments. The most common method of transferring informa- tion about natural gas to local fire departments was through visits to facilities (67%) or some type of joint training (72%). Less than one-quarter reported that they had prepared a note- book of procedures and information to which emergency responders could refer. CHAPTER FOUR TRANSIT EXPERIENCE WITH NATURAL GAS

12 dures for the both facility and vehicle emergencies and that 40% have not communicated emergency procedures to local fire or police departments. Discussion of Findings Typical incidents that required or received an emergency response were natural gas releases or bus fires. With the excep- tion of some PRD releases where the vented gas ignited and produced a torch-like flame, the survey did not identify any fires where natural gas from the fuel system was the first material ignited. The results of the questionnaire showed the incident rate for CNG buses to be on the order of 1 incident per 100 buses per year. As mentioned, transit mechanics were the most frequent responders to natural gas incidents. The high response rate of 92% indicates the importance of incorporating transit mechan- ics into the ICS as equipment experts. In regard to specific emergency procedures, 84% of the transit agencies had procedures for gas leaks within a storage or maintenance facility, 58% had procedures for a fire involv- ing a natural gas-fueled bus, and 47% had procedures for gas leak or release on a natural gas-fueled bus in service. Approx- imately 75% of these procedures were developed by the tran- sit agencies themselves; about 25% were developed by con- sultants, vendors, or other transit agencies; and 50% were developed by fire departments. Only 4% of the respondents had established security pro- cedures specific to natural gas. The comments on the ques- tionnaires did not identify security as an issue. Generally, the use of natural gas as a fuel was not reported to result in the development of security-related procedures that were spe- cific to natural gas. Overall, the survey found that fewer than 50% of the responding transit agencies have prepared emergency proce-

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TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Synthesis 58: Emergency Response Procedures for Natural Gas Transit Vehicles identifies and documents the state of the practice on emergency response protocols to incidents involving natural gas-filled transit buses. The report is designed to assist first responders to natural gas incidents—emergency response professionals such as police officers and fire-fighters; transit agency operations and maintenance employees, police, and security guards; and certain members of the general public.

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