US East Coast refineries received more than half of their crude oil feedstocks by rail during February, the US Energy Information Administration reported.
Although early 2015 capacity utilization within the area was below normal, the 52% of the plants’ total monthly rail receipts marked the first time in EIA’s data set that crude-by-rail deliveries accounted for such a high percentage of East Coast refinery supplies, EIA said.
Rail shipments of crude to East Coast refineries within Petroleum Administration for Defense District 1 (PADD 1) have displaced waterborne imports from countries other than Canada, such as Nigeria, EIA noted. Growth of inland US production of light, sweet crude since 2010 and in Canada created opportunities for both nations’ railroads to move crude to refineries on the US East, Gulf, and West coasts as well as plants in Canada, EIA said.
It said much of the crude moved by rail comes from the Bakken shale in North Dakota and eastern Montana. Bakken crude supplied by rail to US East Coast refineries, along with US production supplied by marine vessels from the Gulf Coast, has reduced demand for foreign crude at the East Coast plants.
In January 2014, US crude oil accounted for half of all East Coast refinery crude oil receipts, and crude-by-rail net receipts to the East Coast surpassed non-Canadian crude oil imports, EIA said.
Capacity has grown
Area refiners have increased rail shipments by expanding loading and unloading capacities for trains carrying crude, EIA noted. “Some facilities handle individual rail cars or a small number of rail cars (known as manifest trains), and others are built for unit trains, which consist of 80 to 120 rail cars carrying crude oil,” it said.
EIA said rail terminals now are better equipped to load and unload trains. “Five years ago, US rail loading capacity for crude oil was almost entirely for manifest trains, but now more than 30 loading terminals throughout the United States can accommodate unit trains,” it said, adding that 10 East Coast terminals now handle unit train unloading.
“As more unit train unloading terminals have been added, some volumes that previously transferred to vessels in Albany before moving on to refineries in New York Harbor, the Philadelphia area, and Canada now are moved directly by rail closer to their ultimate destinations,” EIA said.
Its report came 4 days after the US Department of Transportation and Canada’s Transport Ministry jointly issued new regulations governing transportation of crude oil and other hazardous materials by rail (OGJ Online, May 1, 2015).
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