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Drum It Up! Steel Drum Industry News, Trends, and Issues

Archive for September, 2017

Oil’s Long History with the 55 Gallon Steel Drum

September 28th, 2017 by Natalie Mueller

Filed under: Cool Stuff

The 55 gallon steel drum is perhaps the most iconic barrel Skolnik produces. Seen in countless movies and TV shows, in real life and in photographs, if you were to ask someone to think of what a barrel looks like, a 55 gallon, or 45 imperial gallon, steel drum would most likely be on their minds. One of the biggest reasons these drums are so inexorably planted into our public consciousness is their use in the oil industry. In fact, the two are so closely associated, that the very unit of measurement one uses to talk about oil is barrels. The two weren’t paired from the start, however. Instead, oil has had a somewhat complicated relationship with the 55 gallon steel drum as industry needs have grown, changed, and evolved throughout years.

First and foremost, the “barrel” unit of measurement did not start with steel, but with wood. In the late 1850s, as oil prospecting in Pennsylvania took off, the prospectors used whatever they had to hold it in, and old wine and whiskey casks turned out to be the best solution on hand. Consequently, barrels were there with oil production from basically the very beginning. In those early days, there were some variances, but by the late 1860s, they sought to standardize. Basing their model off of King Edward IV’s herring industry legislation, they decided to sell oil in 40-gallon units, with an additional good will top-off of 2 gallons; the oil equivalent of a baker’s dozen.

These old wooden casks were not quite up to the same standards of quality as the stainless steel wine barrels we here at Skolnik offer, however. Consequently, improvements were sought out. After some early mass-produced steel containers from John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, in 1905 Nellie Bly designed a solution to the crummier containers. With the capacity of holding 55 gallons and key features such as the ribs that provide rigidity and strength, Bly had crafted a new industry standard with the iconic drums we all know so well.

Even with these new containers though, the oil industry was still seeking to pare down their shipping costs. This led to investing in such things as tanker ships and pipelines, with the goal of eliminating physical barrels entirely. It didn’t help that the dissociation between oil and the 55 gallon drum had already begun. The unit “barrel” was still 42 gallons while the container was 55, so the 55 gallon steel drum kept being pushed farther and farther away from the industry that invented it.

Meanwhile, to improve public perception of the barrels that still existed, oil companies painted the barrels bright colors and adorning them with corporate logos. The beautification initiative worked so well that it’s these barrels from the mid-20th Century that cemented the iconic look for generations to come. It is from this initiative that the evocative blue barrel came from.

By the 1950s, for the most part, tanker trucks, railways and pipelines pushed barrels out of the oil production chain all together. The barrels have instead made the transition into other industries, carrying supplies and materials for countless other products. Consequently, the oil barrel is now little more than a term we use when talking about catastrophic spills or energy outputs. The 55 gallon steel drum, however, is still going strong, and will continue to do so for many years to come.

$54,000 Penalty due to Improper Closure

September 26th, 2017 by Howard Skolnik

Filed under: DOT/UN, HazMat, Safety, Skolnik Newsletter

WASHINGTON — Proper closure of packagings is critical to insure the safe transport of contents that are classified as dangerous goods. Failure to comply with these regulations can lead to significant fines from Federal agencies. On July 28th, 2017 the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed a $54,000 civil penalty against the Carboline Company of St. Louis for allegedly violating the Hazardous Materials Regulations.

The FAA alleges that on Sept. 15, 2016, Carboline offered a cardboard box containing two pails of flammable paint to FedEx for overnight delivery from St. Louis to Elmendorf, Texas. On Sept. 16, 2016, the package was transported on a FedEx flight from Memphis to San Antonio. Workers at the FedEx sorting center in San Antonio discovered the shipment was leaking. No clips had been used to secure the lids on the cans. Furthermore, the FAA alleges that the shipment was not accompanied by a shipper’s declaration of dangerous goods, and was not properly classed, described, marked or labeled. The FAA further alleges Carboline failed to properly package the shipment to prevent a release of hazardous materials under normal transportation conditions. Additionally, the FAA alleges Carboline failed to provide emergency response information with the shipment. Carboline has the opportunity to respond to the agency.
Closure Instructions are critical to a complaint shipment. View the Closure instructions for Skolnik drums here.

FAA Reconsiders Laptops in Luggage

September 19th, 2017 by Howard Skolnik

Filed under: DOT/UN, HazMat, Industry News, Safety, Skolnik Newsletter

As a result of recent security measures which involved the potential of prohibiting the carriage of Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) larger than a cellphone or smartphone in the cabin on flights from certain points of departure into the U.S.; one option was for passengers to place their large PEDs into their checked baggage if they wanted to transport them on these flights. This option would have created an unexpected increase in the number of lithium battery-powered devices in the cargo compartment of passenger aircraft. It was noted that there was little research data available on the behavior, effects and risks associated with PEDs being placed in a passenger’s checked baggage. Except for loose batteries and e-cigarettes in checked baggage, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not have significant incident data on passenger PEDs in checked baggage. To address the lack of sufficient research data on the behavior and effects of a large number of PEDs placed in the cargo hold on passenger aircraft, the Fire Safety Branch at the FAA Technical Center conducted tests to assess the potential hazards from the carriage of laptop computers and other large PEDs in checked baggage. Included was research to identify possible risk mitigation options. The objectives of the testing were to: 1) Determine the relative effectiveness of the cargo compartment Halon 1301 fire suppression system against the potential fire scenarios involving devices containing lithium batteries now carried as checked baggage; and 2) Determine whether there are potential mitigation options, such as the use of enhanced packaging to contain flames and gas from spreading outside a package.

The specific tests reflect cargo compartment loading procedures in use by air carriers affected by the security policy. Discussion: The FAA Tech Center has conducted tests utilizing fully charged laptop computers inside suitcases. The suitcases were all soft sided but varied in the density and types of items inside, as well as, the construction of the outer case. A heater was placed against a lithium ion cell in the battery of a laptop to force it into thermal runaway. The results of this test condition yielded the most troubling results. As a result of this, it was concluded that if a PED is packed in a suitcase with permitted hazardous materials and a thermal runaway event occurs, there is the potential for the resulting event to exceed the capabilities of the airplane to cope with it. Although most consumer PEDs (including but not limited to cell phones, smart phones, personal digital assistants (PDA) devices, electronic games, tablets, laptop computers, cameras, camcorders, watches, calculators) containing batteries are allowed in carry-on and checked baggage, the FAA believes that there is a very low frequency of lithium battery-powered devices being voluntarily transported in checked baggage. The FAA’s belief is largely based on the understanding that most passengers prefer keeping their devices on their persons to use, during flight or to prevent loss or theft in transit. With regard to the safety risk posed by PEDs, the ICAO Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air (the Technical Instructions) recommend that these devices be carried in the cabin on the basis that, should a PED initiate a fire, the cabin crew can expeditiously identify the incident, take appropriate firefighting action, and monitor the device for possible re-ignition.

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Resources for Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma Aid

September 14th, 2017 by Natalie Mueller

Filed under: DOT/UN, Industry News, Safety

Just as relief efforts began to bring aid to those affected by Hurricane Harvey, the country needed to brace itself for a second storm, Hurricane Irma. Hurricane Irma was a vicious storm that added to the already enormous amount of damage, loss of business, and disruption to thousands of lives Harvey has caused. Consequently, we here at Skolnik want to make sure our friends and clients have the resources at hand to make informed, effective decisions for their businesses as they respond to these disasters now and going forward.

First and foremost, the Department of Transportation has a page of useful links regarding emergency declarations and information on how the DOT and various other departments are handling these disasters. They also have information on all restrictions, delays and permits for all types of transportation, including ships, planes, railways, and trucking.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has also released a response to Harvey, including information on special and emergency permits, as well as important phone numbers regarding emergency hazardous materials transportation:

  • Hazardous Materials Information Center: 800-467-4922
  • Approvals and Permits Division: 202-366-4535
  • Office of Pipeline Safety: 202-366-4595

Along with these industry-specific updates, organizations such as FEMA and the EPA have more general, up-to-date information for those affected by these two storms.

For those who are not directly in the path of Harvey and Irma, there certainly are ways to help. One of the most effective means of support is supporting the non-for profits with boots already on the ground. NPR has a great list of both national and local organizations helping in those affected by Harvey, with information regarding Irma undoubtedly soon to follow. Any one of these organizations would appreciate any and all donations so they can continue their work, helping those who need it.

From 5 gallon stainless steel barrels of wine to 110 gallon 7A Type A drums for radioactive materials, Skolnik provides packaging for a wide variety of business. No matter the industry, regardless of proximity to the storm, we hope you all stayed safe last weekend and remain safe as we go into this weekend. To those of you affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, we hope for a speedy recovery for you, your businesses, and all of your loved ones.