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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-18-027
Synopsis: On March 10, 2017, about 12:50 a.m., central standard time, eastbound Union Pacific Railroad (UP) unit ethanol train, UEGKOT-09, with 3 locomotives, 98 loaded tank cars, and 2 buffer cars filled with sand derailed near milepost (MP) 56.8 at a timber railroad bridge on the Estherville Subdivision, near Graettinger, Iowa.P0F P Twenty loaded tank cars in positions 21 through 40 derailed. Fourteen of the derailed tank cars released about 322,000 gallons of undenatured ethanol, fueling a postaccident fire. The accident occurred near Jack Creek, a tributary of the Des Moines River. There were no injuries and three nearby homes were evacuated. About 400 feet of railroad track and a 152-foot railroad bridge were destroyed in the accident. UP estimated damages at $4 million.P2F P At the time of the accident, the wind was from the northwest at 17 mph gusting to 30 mph, visibility was 10 miles, and the temperature was 10°F.
Recommendation: TO THE PIPELINE AND HAZARDOUS MATERIALS SAFETY ADMINISTRATION: Sponsor research to study and publish the difference in characteristics between denatured and undenatured ethanol and the benefits that could be achieved by transporting fuel ethanol without the use of volatile organic chemical denaturants.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open - Initial Response Received
Mode: Railroad
Location: Graettinger, IA, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Accident #: DCA17MR007
Accident Reports: Preliminary Report: Railroad DCA17MR007Derailment and Hazardous Materials Release of Union Pacific Railroad Unit Ethanol Train, Graettinger, Iowa, March 10, 2017
Report #: RAR-18-02
Accident Date: 3/10/2017
Issue Date: 11/27/2018
Date Closed:
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: PHMSA (Open - Initial Response Received)

Safety Recommendation History
Date: 2/21/2019
Response: -From Drue Pearce, Deputy Administrator: The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) concurs. PHMSA will sponsor a study to research the differences between "undenatured ethanol" and "ethanol denatured with volatile organic compounds." The study will seek to determine whether different types of denaturants cause ethanol to react differently under accident conditions and better understand the costs and benefits of transporting ethanol with denaturant, including environmental impacts. PHMSA will strive to have a report on the findings of the first phase of the study by Spring 2020.

From: NTSB
Date: 11/27/2018
Response: On October 30, 2018, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) adopted its accident report, Derailment and Hazardous Materials Release of Union Pacific Railroad Unit Ethanol Train, Graettinger, Iowa, March 10, 2017, RAR-18/02. The details of this accident report and the resulting safety recommendations may be found in the accident report, which can also be accessed at Among the safety recommendations is one issued to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and one reiterated to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration which can be found on page 61 of the report. The NTSB is vitally interested in these recommendations because they are designed to prevent accidents and save lives. We would appreciate a response within 90 days, detailing the actions you have taken or intend to take to implement these recommendations. When replying, please refer to the safety recommendations by number. We encourage you to submit your response to If it exceeds 10 megabytes, including attachments, please e-mail us at the same address for instructions. Please do not submit both an electronic copy and a hard copy of the same response.