Chemical Economic Benefits Have Inherent Chemical Transportation Risks

This week’s Hazmat incident involving a crash between an isobutene tanker and another motor carrier is a reminder of risks involved with daily chemical transportation. Isobutylene (synonym for isobutene) when blended with gasoline is used to make high octane aviation gasoline blends. First responders and emergency managers should be commended for their efforts to close the interstate quickly to avoid providing this highly flammable chemical a chance to find a source to ignite. While the primary hazard is flammability, this chemical also presents toxicity risks.

Crashes involving large trucks carrying hazardous materials are relatively rare. Less than 10 percent of truck shipments include Hazmat as all or part of the cargo load. Less than 5 percent of large truck crashes involve trucks carrying Hazmat. While most motor carrier crashes are rare, fuel tanker crashes represent most of the incidents. A report to FMCSA found that Class 3 Hazmat (flammable liquids) accounted for 64 percent of hazmat crashes where cargo was released during the crash.

IEM has recently provided priority chemical transportation profiles in areas of Louisiana with high concentrations of chemical facilities. The results allow emergency managers to determine the volume and frequency of priority chemical shipments traveling through their back yard, information that was previously not available to the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC).  This information is helpful to emergency managers and decision makers because (1) they know which chemicals posing the highest risks are transported through their regions and (2) they can tailor their training and exercises to focus on incidents involving these chemicals.

Several of the major chemical companies in Louisiana represent global manufacturing operations with chemical transportation connections throughout the United States and around the world. Successes in these global markets translate to positive economic benefits for Louisiana. However, with those economic benefits come chemical transportation risks by motor carrier, rail, pipeline and barge inherent in the business of chemical manufacturing and transport.


Cameo Chemical Database
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
Louisiana Chemical Association CNN

Related Material:
Isobutene Leak on I-10 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Chemical Company Safety and Security Mandates with Feds on All Sides
Ascension Parish, Louisiana to Complete Hazmat Study
IEM Multi-Modal Transportation Safety and Security


Author:  David O. Willauer, IEM Transportation & Geospatial Technologies