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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Performance of Tank Car Pressure Relief Devices Under Derailment Fire Conditions

Document Series
Technical Reports
Federal Railroad Administration
Report Number
Subject Hazardous Materials
Tank cars, hazardous materials, derailment fires, pressure relief devices, fire testing, crude oil, ethanol

Tank cars use pressure relief devices (PRDs) to protect the tank from overpressure situations, such as those resulting from derailment related fire exposure. However, these devices are not tested/certified under such high temperature conditions. The intent of this research program was to characterize PRD performance under these critical conditions through testing. The research team successfully conceptualized, prepared, and executed two series of fire tests, which effectively evaluated the performance of PRDs under fire conditions. The first series of tests used water as the lading, and the second series of tests used ethanol as the lading. The PRDs survived the fire and functioned normally when subjected to moderately high temperatures for 30 to 60 minutes. Recommendations for future work include extending the ability to model and predict tank and PRD behavior considering the results from these tests.

Last updated: Monday, February 14, 2022