Three Questions: Bob Andrews, President and CEO of the Bob Andrews Group LLC

President & CEO Robert C. Andrews, Jr.

President & CEO Robert C. Andrews, Jr.

Fire-protection company Bob Andrews Group LLC this month launched a new subsidiary that offers emergency-response services for shippers moving crude oil by rail. The company’s fledgling BAG-Emergency Response Services unit will provide firefighting crews and specialized equipment for the petroleum industry, which increasingly uses trains to get crude from remote shale plays like the Eagle Ford to refining centers. We asked Andrews to discuss the potential dangers of the practice and what his new venture can do to abate the risks.

Q: Clearly the shipping of crude-oil-by-rail is a growing trend. Has the industry done enough to ensure the safety of this practice?

Statistically, shipping crude-oil-by-rail remains one of the safest means of transporting oil to market, especially when pipelines are not available. Having said that, I don’t know anyone who predicted how fast the recent oil shale industry would grow throughout North America, nor especially predict its impact on railroads. Some have called it the “Oil-Shale Boom”, others the “21st Century Gold Rush”. And like the original Gold Rush, there are a lot of benefits, a lot of opportunities, and a lot of challenges. I think that to some degree the industry is having to play catch-up regarding crude oil train safety, especially in light of the recent accident in Quebec. However, I am confident that the industry is actively looking at numerous ways to improve the safety of crude-oil-by-rail, and the industry will be implementing those improvements in the future.

Q: Why did you form the new BAG-Emergency Response Services subsidiary to focus on this kind of specialized emergency response service?

The industry is taking a multi-targeted approach to crude oil rail safety. That approach includes reviewing and improving operating procedures, as well as improving the strength and design of the rail tank cars themselves. But there is also a need to increase the level of emergency preparedness and response in the unlikely event that a major emergency occur in the future. I formed BAG-Emergency Response Services to provide an effective corporate structure from which I could combine my 30-years of specialized oil, refining, and chemical firefighting, fire protection engineering, and railroad experience, to meet this specialized emergency response challenge.

Q: Should people be worried about the movement of crude unit trains through their neighborhoods and towns?

I think the public should be aware, possibly concerned, but certainly not worried. To put it in terms that most people would understand, we can look at the safety of the commercial aviation industry as a comparison. Like crude oil rail transport, flying commercially is a very safe way to travel. Yet, from time-to-time we read about an accident involving a commercial airliner. While we are ever aware that that risk exists, many of us, myself included, routinely fly. We expect, however, that should a mishap occur, that a very dedicated, effective, and robust emergency response system will activate and respond to our airliner emergency. BAG-Emergency Response Services will provide that specialized emergency response capability to the crude-oil-by-rail market, similar to what we expect from the commercial aviation industry.

San Antonio Business Journal
Sep 27, 2013, 5:00am CDT
by Sanford Nowlin

Three Questions: Bob Andrews, President and CEO of the Bob Andrews Group LLC (pdf version)