Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bakken Crude By Rail? Under Review

In the wake of the Lac-Mégantic disaster, many people have many questions. People are asking what traffic rolls through their communities, agencies are reviewing emergency response plans, people are wondering whether rail or pipeline transport is safer, new regulations were rushed out, and even the Canadian Senate was involved.

In August, Omnitrax Inc., owner of the Hudson Bay Railway and the Port of Churchill, announced they were planning a test shipment of oil to Churchill for export. The plan was to ship 330,000 barrels* of oil to Churchill for loading on a tanker. About $2 million in upgrades to port facilities were required to increase the pumping capacity there.

Groups have come out in opposition to this plan, including the Wilderness Council and the province of Manitoba. This is natural, considering what happened in Lac-Mégantic. One has to consider a few points, though:
  • the Hudson Bay Railway is already shipping light petroleum products (gasoline and diesel) to Churchill;
  • the Hudson Bay Railway has had reportable accidents every year from 2003 to 2012;
  • emergency response to a spill on the line could be very difficult as much of the line is in very remote areas.
I just don't know whether it is a good idea or not. The railway needs the traffic but I think they need to provide some convincing assurances that it will be transported safely.

Irving Oil
The CBC is reporting that Irving Oil is shifting "away from rail to transport crude" and will be doubling the amount of oil they will be receiving by barge from Albany, NY. Currently they are receiving a shipload of oil from Albany via the tanker Afrodite every 8 days, and the article says this will double shortly with another ship being added to the route.

The article is very misleading as it does not ask how the oil gets to Albany. Very likely it is being shipped by rail in the United States.

Incidentally, I was quoted recently in the Portland Press Herald in regard to idle tank cars in Maine.

* there is some confusion about whether the plan was for 330,000 barrels or gallons. Personally I can't imagine it was gallons because that's about 10 tank cars and hardly worth mentioning.


Anonymous said...

Based on a quick review of the rail providers to the Port of Albany, my money is on CP bringing it to Montreal then south to Albany. CP earns the same revenue. The M,M + A would be replaced by a barge movement.

Canadian Train Geek said...

That would make sense. My understanding is that CP was basically subcontracting to MMA for that leg of the journey, so now they are subcontracting to a barge.

Unknown said...

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brux said...

CP transports oil to the Port of Albany on its D&H 'line'. I lived in the Hudson Valley and the Port was always full of tankers. It has to be very profitable for CP because otherwise they would have sold the track to NS - like they did with their track south of Schenectady NY into PA.