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New Federal Rules Pinpoint Crude Rail Shipments, White Paper Shows

Bakken crude oil rail shipments traverse 32 of North Dakota's 53 counties on a weekly basis, and some counties have up to 45 crude-bearing trains pass through their boundaries weekly, according to a white paper released Thursday by an analyst at Genscape, the commodity and energy markets data gathering firm.

A new federal reporting requirement from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) established earlier this year (see Shale Daily, July 24) has enabled firms like Genscape to get more precise information on crude oil rail shipments by each railroad. In North Dakota that means information on shipments by three rail lines: BNSF Railway, Canadian Pacific (CP) and Northern Plains.

Genscape’s Bridget Hunsucker, senior oil editor, cited BNSF, the state's largest crude-by-rail transporter, as sending up to 45 Bakken crude trains weekly through Cass County in the southeast corner of North Dakota. CP sent two to five trains weekly through 13 counties and Northern Plains sends a dozen crude trains weekly through Walsh County.

Hunsucker said Bakken crude is loaded at 18 different crude rail facilities in the state, representing an overall capacity for handling 1.28 million b/d; a little higher than the state's latest production levels. "Total rail loadings were 522,383 b/d for the week ended July 25," Hunsucker said.

Given the DOT-mandated reporting of crude rail shipments, Genscape has begun a new monitoring service, and Hunsucker drew on some of its initial data. The white paper uses this initial data to outline crude rail traffic throughout North Dakota and a number of other states, including New York and California.

Given its volumes of rail shipments and the number of recent accidents involving Bakken shipments (see Daily GPI, Jan. 3), DOT's website said the new reporting requirement is aimed at "giving first responders an understanding of the volume and frequency with which Bakken crude oil is transported through their communities so that they can prepare their response plans accordingly."

As a result, states are releasing data, and the Genscape white paper cited information from seven other states (Washington, Virginia, Montana, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Oregon) in addition to North Dakota, New York and California. In New York, for example, crude unloading the week ended July 25 averaged 105,686 b/d at the Global Partner's facility, which has a capacity to handle up to 165,000 b/d, the white paper said.

In New York state, CP typically moves seven trains weekly, ranging between five and nine Bakken crude trains, the white paper said. CSX moves 20 to 35 crude trains weekly in Albany County, NY.

In Virginia, CSX moves two to five trains of Bakken crude weekly through up to 20 counties. On the West Coast, BNSF reports about 13 trains weekly through 16 counties in the state of Washington, and one train weekly in Northern California through nine counties.

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