Skip Navigation

Mid-America Transportation Center

Reducing Flammability for Bakken Crude Oil for Train Transport - Phase I


University of Iowa

Principal Investigator
Albert Ratner
PI Contact Information
Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided
USDOT: $77,900
UIowa Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering: $ 77,900
Total Project Cost
$ 155,800
Agency ID or Contract Number
Start Date
End Date
Brief Description of Research Project
Various crude oil train derailments in recent years have exposed critical shortcomings in existing rail infrastructure. These incidents lead to large oil spills, and the oil finds itself in the presence of various hot surfaces on the site (such as wheel wells). This is an especially dangerous situation in the case of Bakken crude, which is of a light variety and contains significant amounts of easy to evaporate, easy to ignite light ends, and usually the result is an intense fireball. This research proposal is about laying the groundwork in the first year for a larger, five-year project to improve fire safety during transportation by adding long chain polymers to crude oil before shipping. Previous research done by Prof Albert Ratner et al under MATC-DOT sponsorship has concluded that polymeric additives improve fire safety in diesel fuel and its blends by suppressing splashing, delaying ignition, and promoting flame extinction. There is a strong indication that the same will be true for crude oil as well. For the first year, mixtures of pure organic compounds, which mimic the splashing characteristics of Bakken crude, will be identified to act as crude oil splashing surrogates. Work will be well underway to identify similar surrogates for combustion, and is scheduled to be completed in the middle of Year 2. Surrogates are necessary because of their homogeneity, reproducibility, and better optical properties. Experimental setups and methods developed in aforementioned research will be used to study the splashing and combustion properties of surrogates and to link them to those of crude oil. Establishment of reliable surrogates will allow the research to proceed into Year 2, where the same work will be repeated with different polymers mixed in at different concentrations into the surrogates to establish the most optimal one.
Describe Implementation of Research Outcomes
Impacts/Benefits of Implementation
Web Links
Modal Orientation
  • Freight
  • Railroad
  • Safety and Human Performance