NH3 Tanks With Missing Data Plates

Issue:  USDOT requires data-plates on all anhydrous ammonia nurse tanks and has authority over these pressure vessels.

Background: According to state sources, Iowa has approximately 26,000 NH3 tanks with an estimated one third of those without data-plates.  These ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) plates are affixed to tanks at the date of manufacture.  Iowa regulations require maintenance of ammonia tanks that are inspected regularly by IDALS. (Iowa Department of Agriculture).  In the normal course of maintenance many of the date-plates have been lost.

In March 2004 TFI (The Fertilizer Institute) initiated action behalf of eight of their members for an exemption.  On January 10, 2005 the USDOT granted the TFI request for an exemption from certain requirements in DOT’s “Hazardous Materials Regulations.”  (Download USDOT document here). Current federal law requires that all ammonia nurse tanks carry an American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) identification plate.  In its application for an exemption, TFI indicated that its members have ample reason to believe that the nurse tanks, which may have lost their nameplates due to the ravages of time and weather, still meet DOT safety standards. As such, TFI requested an exemption from the date-plate requirement and expressed the industry’s willingness to work with DOT to demonstrate the safety of the tanks.

AAI Actions: AAI members approached AAI asking for assistance due to the large volume of tanks that would need testing in the state.  Minnesota had a data-plate testing program that was implemented several years ago and appeared to be recognized by the USDOT.  AAI worked with IDALS to create a similar program that would allow tanks to be registered in Iowa and come under the jurisdiction of the state.  Up until this time, it was assumed that the state of Iowa (IDALS) had jurisdiction over ammonia tanks in conjunction with the IDOT and USDOT much as the state of Minnesota had.

On August 26, 2005, Minnesota received word that their certification program was not acceptable to the USDOT.  With that determination, the Iowa program was also deemed unacceptable.  USDOT stated that NH3 tanks must conform to Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR 49 CFR Parts 171-180)

What Must You Do to Come in Compliance?

Any nurse tank authorized under 173.315(m) for which the ASME nameplate has become indistinct, or the nameplate is lost or illegible, must come into compliance with the applicable marking requirement in the ASME Code.  To do this, the owner of the nurse tank must first provide documentation to the original manufacturer that demonstrates that the nurse tank was designed and constructed in accordance with the

ASME code.  Once this occurs, the manufacturer will be in a position to issue and stamp a replacement ASME nameplate.  Replacement ASME nameplates must be attached in accordance with the (NBIC) National Board Inspection Code, Part RB 1030(b).  The only other alternative is to apply for a new exemption or obtain party status to an applicable exemption as specified under Part 107, Subpart B.

In granting the exemption, DOT will require nurse tanks without the identification plate to be inspected and tested by doing an external visual inspection, thickness test and pressure test. DOT will also require nurse tanks to be retested and reinspected every five years. In addition, each owner of a nurse tank operating under the exemption must maintain a copy of the test report; a current copy of the exemption must be maintained at the facility where the nurse tank is tested and offered for transportation; and each nurse tank must be plainly and durably marked with the exemption number and with a unique owner’s identification number.{mospagebreak}

AAI continued efforts to work with the USDOT.  Following a conference call on October 19, 2005 with state, federal and association leaders that included our general counsel negotiations ceased and on December 15, 2005 the AAI Ammonia Tank Task Force met to make recommendations.

Recommended Actions:

The AAI Agronomy Committee Task Force is in concurrence with ARA (Ag Retailers Association) and recommends the follow actions be taken by AAI members actively engaged in the sale and transportation of anhydrous ammonia:

Options to Consider: (source ARA)
Retailers have several options to consider related to NH3 nurse tanks that do not have the required tank identification plates.

  • 1) Remove the nurse tank from service. Remove all product and bleed the tank empty.
  • 2) Register for the DOT Exemption.

a. TFI, their eight member companies, and Asmark Institute have developed a database called Nurse Tank Inspection Program (NTIP). Retailers can register each facility location with the NTIP via TFI’s web site.

  • 3) Remain non-compliant and risk extensive fines levied by state DOT regulators. ARA does not recommend this option as it creates many risk and liability issues.

AAI, in concurrence with ARA, encourages ag retailers to register for the DOT Exemption under the TFI Exemption, or some other comparable exemption offered by other regulatory service providers.  Additionally, record keeping of all existing tanks is strongly recommended and contact with your insurance carrier would/could be beneficial.
The DOT exemption provides a method for facilities with nurse tanks without the identification plate to (1) perform an external visual inspection test; (2) conduct a hydrostatic inspection test; and (3) conduct a thickness inspection test.  A registered inspector must perform these inspection tests, which may be a company employee who meets the requirements of the DOT regulations. The tank exemption must be renewed every two years and re-inspected every five years and marked with the exemption number and a unique company identification number.

Upon securing “party status” from DOT your business will need to identify a DOT approved inspector who will be conducting the required inspection tests. If you need assistance for party status, you may contact DOT directly thru their web site.
Where Do I Find A Cargo Tank Inspector  (Source TFI)
In order to perform or witness the inspections and tests required to receive the DOT-E 13554 exemption, inspectors must be registered and possess a Cargo Tank (CT) registration number from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Each individual ammonia retailer will need to work with their inspectors to be sure they are registered.

The following USDOT site lists registered cargo tank inspectors as of 12-15-05:http://mcmis.volpe.dot.gov/mcs150t/PKG_CT_PUBLIC.PRC_PROCESS_SEARCH

More information regarding tank certification can be found on The Fertilizer Institute webpage at: http://www.nursetank.org/

The Future of NH3 Tanks
Based on the meeting with the USDOT, it is anticipated that ALL (not just those without data plates) ammonia tanks will soon be required to do testing on a regular basis.  Currently these tanks are the only pressure vessels on the road that are not required to be tested on a regular basis.  Although a timeframe for these actions have not been determined, AAI has reason to believe that rule making will begin in Washington within the next year.

Replacement Data Plates — Is that an Option?
The Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association recently researched the requirement to obtain replacement data plates and though discovery found the following:

IFCA has looked into what is involved in acquiring a new ASME data plate in order to keep nurse tanks in service if the tanks data plates are missing or illegible.  According to one company that manufactures anhydrous ammonia nurse tanks, in order to get a data place re-issues there must be at least three pieces of information recovered from the data plate.  Information that needs to be on the plate is (1) the tank manufacturer, (2) year of manufacture and (3) the serial number of the tank.

An application must be sent to the regional supervisor of boiler and pressure vessels which is the Illinois State Fire Marshal.  The application must include a rub or digital picture of the data plate in question.  An application also must be sent to the original manufacturer of the nurse tank so that they can review it and determine if there is enough legible information to issue a new plate.  If it is determined by both OSFM and the manufacturer that there is enough legible information to re-issue a new plate, then the owner of the tank must make arrangements to have the plates re-attached by the original manufacturer of the nurse tank.  A representative from the Illinois Sate Fire Marshal’s office must also be present to witness the re-attachment of the data plate to the nurse tank.  If the Fire Marshal’s office determines there is not enough legible information to issue a new data plate, they can order the tank be taken out of service.

IFCA spoke with the tank manufacturer and they estimated the cost to visit a facility and re-attach a data plate is about $400/day plus all travel expenses.  One of the problems with this procedure is not all companies that manufactured nurse tanks are still in operation and other companies are not willing to re-issue a data plate on a tank they did to manufacture due to liability issues.  If a data plate is completely missing or there is not enough information legible on the data plate, then the manufacturing company will not re-issue the new plate because they will not be able to track the tank from the time of its original manufacture.

sources cited:  USDOT, ARA, TFI, IFCA

The Fertilizer Institute http://www.tfi.org/ (NTIP Program)
Ag Retailers Association www.aradc.org/index.php
Agribusiness Association of Iowa https://www.agribiz.org/
Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Cargo Tank Facilities-  http://mcmis.volpe.dot.gov/mcs150t/PKG_CT_PUBLIC.PRC_PROCESS_SEARCH