Reducing Flammability for Bakken Crude Oil for Train Transport: Year 5

Crude oil shipping by rail is a critical component of our energy security and has grown steadily with the Bakken oil boom. However, existing rail infrastructures are in a state of disrepair, which has been evidenced in recent years by several high-profile derailments of trains carrying crude oil, resulting in large oil spills. This is an especially dangerous situation in the case of Bakken crude, which is a light variety and contains significant amounts of easy-to-evaporate, easy-to-ignite light ends, and usually results is an intense fireball in the case of accidents. This research proposal considers a solution to improve fire safety during transportation: adding long-chain polymers to crude oil before shipping. Previous research done by Professor Albert Ratner’s research group under MATC-DOT sponsorship has concluded that polymeric additives improve fire safety in diesel fuels and its blends by delaying ignition, promoting flame extinction, and suppressing splashing. In Years 1-4 of the project, surrogates for the Bakken crude were identified and tested for their ability to suspend polymers and nanoparticles that will serve as fire-limiting agents. In addition, combustion behaviors such as ignition delay, combustion rate, and flame characteristics were experimentally investigated. To provide a broader understanding, testing included crudes sourced from the Bakken formation, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Combustion characteristics were established for surrogate fuels with various polymeric additives and carbon-based nano-additives at various concentrations. Also, the stability/settling characteristics were investigated with different surrogate fuels containing nano-additives. In Year 5, the primary effort will be to study how to achieve prolonged stability for fuels with nano-additives (carbon-based nanomaterial/nanoparticles, polymers, and their mixture) because long stability periods are a prerequisite for practical application. In addition, combustion characteristics will be investigated for mixed additives (mixture of carbon-based nanomaterial/nanoparticles and polymers) for different surrogate fuels and crudes to exploit their individual, fire-safety-enhancing characteristics. These results will allow for this information to be linked with surrogate and crude properties. This information is critical for enabling adoption of this technology.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $155800
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Managing Organizations:

    Mid-America Transportation Center

    University of Nebraska-Lincoln
    2200 Vine Street, PO Box 830851
    Lincoln, NE  United States  68583-0851
  • Project Managers:

    Stearns, Amy

  • Performing Organizations:

    University of Iowa, Iowa City

    IIHR- Hydroscience & Engineering
    307 C. Maxwell Stanley Hydraulics Lab
    Iowa City, Iowa  United States  52242
  • Principal Investigators:

    Ratner, Albert

  • Start Date: 20220101
  • Expected Completion Date: 20221231
  • Actual Completion Date: 20221231
  • USDOT Program: University Transportation Centers Program
  • Source Data: RiP Project 91994-101

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01844443
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Mid-America Transportation Center
  • Contract Numbers: 69A3551747107
  • Files: UTC, RIP
  • Created Date: Apr 30 2022 11:31AM