Crude-by-rail export volumes hit record high in April
According to the National Energy Board (NEB), Canada's crude exports to the United States by rail hit a record 193,000 bbl/day in April, up 22,000 bbl/day from the previous month and surpassing the highs of September 2014. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) is reporting that about half of those volumes are destined for the Gulf Coast region (PADD 3).
According to the NEB, Canada now exports over 600,000 bbl/day to the Gulf Coast, mostly in the form of heavy sour crude from the oil sands. The region is underserved by pipeline and has been relying heavily on imports by rail to boost its supply of Canadian crude.
Alberta and Saskatchewan have a crude-by-rail loading capacity of about 1 million bbl/day, but the system has been limited by congestion on rail tracks and availability of tankers. Although shipments by rail is less efficient and more costly than pipeline transport, rail tracks have the distinct advantage of being able to reach every corner of North America. The use of heated tankers can also significantly reduce or eliminate diluent volumes typically required when shipping bitumen out of the oil sands.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), crude exports to the US by rail are expected to reach almost 400,000 bbl/day next year as Alberta's production continues to rise and export pipelines remain oversubscribed.
Cross-border crude-by-rail data is published monthly by both the NEB and EIA, two months in arrears.