For first time, EIA tracking monthly crude by rail movements

By Emily Aasand | April 01, 2015

The U.S. Energy Information Administration now provides monthly data on rail movements of crude oil. The data on crude-by-rail movements can be found in the EIA’s monthly petroleum supply statistics, which already includes crude oil movements by pipeline, tanker and barge.

“The new crude-by-rail data provides a clearer picture on a mode of oil transportation that has experienced rapid growth in recent years and is of great interest to policy makers, the public and industry,” said Adam Sieminski, EIA Administrator. “EIA expects that the new data it has developed using information provided by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board along with data from other third-party sources and our own survey data, will provide key insights into oil-by-rail movements, including shipments to and from Canada. We welcome the cooperation of the STB as well as Canada’s National Energy Board in making these data accessible.”

The EIA will offer monthly data from January 2010 through the current reporting month, January 2015. Crude-by-rail activity is tracked between pairs of Petroleum Administration for Defense District regions, within each region and across the U.S.-Canada border, the EIA said.

Total crude-by-rail movements in the United States and between the United States and Canada were more than 1 million barrels of oil per day (bopd) in 2014, up from 55,000 bopd in 2010. The regional distribution of these movements has also changed over this period, the EIA added. 

This comes after the topic of shipping crude by rail safety sparked discussion in Washington D.C., last week with the introduction of legislation in the U.S. Senate and the release of a report on oil properties by the U.S. Department of Energy. 

U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Patty Murray D-Wash., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., had introduced legislation setting new safety standards for trains hauling volatile crude oil, which they said would “better protect American communities along the tracks.”

Called “The Crude-By-Rail Safety Act of 2015,” the bill requires the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to draft new regulations to mitigate the volatility of gases in crude oil shipped via tank car and immediately halt the use of older-model tank cars that have been shown to be at high risk for puncturing and catching fire in derailments.

“Every new derailment increases the urgency with which we need to act,” said Sen. Cantwell, ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “This legislation will help reduce the risk of explosion in accidents, take unsafe tank cars off the tracks, and ensure first responders have the equipment they need.  We can’t afford to wait for ten accidents per year, as estimated by the Department of Transportation.”


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