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February 25, 2013

Volatile fuel unlikely on city rails

HAVERHILL — Trains carrying ethanol to a Revere company might not come through Haverhill, as city councilors feared.

State transportation officials say it is unlikely any of the trains will come near the city, although they indicated they could not be certain as rail travel is regulated on the federal level.

Two weeks ago, city leaders said they were concerned about a private company’s plan to transport large amounts of volatile and flammable ethanol fuel through Haverhill and other communities in the region.

Global Petroleum Corp., which has a petroleum storage facility in Revere, plans to have two 60-car trains of ethanol delivered to its facility along the Chelsea River each week. Ethanol is a colorless, alcohol-based liquid fuel that burns at extremely high temperatures.

Last week, David J. Mohler, executive director for MassDOT Office of Transportation Planning, sent a letter to state Rep. Brian Dempsey clarifying the proposed routes the trains will travel. Mohler said that through a study conducted by MassDOT, the agency identified four routes that are likely to be used by the ethanol trains to access the Global facility.

Mohler said that none of the likely routes to Global’s petroleum storage facility pass through Haverhill. But according to a study by MassDOT, the Haverhill Line, which stretches between Boston and Haverhill, is one of the routes identified.

“It is MassDOT’s expectation that passage of an ethanol train through the city of Haverhill, while possible, is very unlikely given that the city is located north of Revere,” Mohler said. Mohler explained that the ethanol trains will be originating in the Midwest, west of the Global facility, and that there are no major freight rail connections between these points that run through Haverhill.

Mohler said that ethanol, which is used as a fuel additive to reduce carbon monoxide emissions from motor vehicles, is primarily produced domestically in the Midwest region of the country and that Iowa, Nebraska and Illinois are the leading production states.

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