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Carloadings of petroleum hit record high

Carloadings of petroleum hit record high

Posted on: 9/4/2018 | Author: ATB Financial's Economics + Research Team

​​The news these days is about the bitumen pipeline from Alberta to the west coast. But quietly, a growing volume of oil from our province’s oilsands is finding its way to markets regardless.

In June of this year, the number of railway carloads of fuel oil and crude petroleum hit 16,193 — a record high and about eight times the volume of ten years ago.

Statistics Canada does not report the number of railcars of upgraded synthetic bitumen separately, and certainly, a portion of the total would be other types of conventional crude oil and refined fuels. But given the explosive growth in the volume of shipments in this category, there is no doubt that the increase is due primarily to oilsands production.

The graph below shows rail cars over the last ten years. Between 2008 and 2011, there was little change in the movement of oil by rail as pipeline capacity managed to transport the bulk of production. But as oilsands production ramped up in 2012, shippers ran into pipeline capacity constraints and started moving much more bitumen by rail. It reached a peak in 2015.

When oil prices collapsed in 2015 and 2016, shipments of oil by rail also sank. But with prices recovering in 2018, more oil than ever is now moving by rail.

Railway carloadings, Alberta​​​

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