oil by rail

Oil-by-Rail Volumes Decreasing While Risks Remain

Read time: 7 mins

There are only two things that have made any real difference in protecting the public from the dangers of oil trains: activism that has stopped new infrastructure, and low oil prices. While activism is currently on hold during the pandemic, impacts on oil prices abound.

The latest numbers show that U.S. oil-by-rail volumes are down 11 percent versus where they were a year ago, which is likely just the beginning of the decline in volumes.

The industry is actually looking to fill rail tank cars with oil and then just park them as a form of additional storage as the current oil glut, combined with the huge drop in demand due to the coronavirus, is likely to fill all available storage in the next 2-3 months.

Canadian Town Evacuated After Another Oil Train Derails and Burns

Read time: 3 mins
Site of December 2019 CP oil train accident site, with the derailment looking south

Early in the morning of February 6, an oil train derailed and caught fire near Guernsey, Saskatchewan, resulting in the Canadian village's evacuation. This is the second oil train to derail and burn near Guernsey, following one in December that resulted in a fire and oil spill of 400,000 gallons.

Forecast for 2020: More Oil Trains, Fires, Spills, and the Rise of LNG by Rail

Read time: 10 mins
Canadian oil train accident scene

As 2019 drew to a close and the new year ramps up, a number of signs point to the growing risks of transporting oil and gas by rail, with little government oversight to speak of: from increasing oil train traffic into the U.S. to fiery oil train derailments and new approvals for moving liquefied natural gas (LNG) by rail.

Will Rail Be Key to Exporting Canada's Tar Sands Oil to the World?

Read time: 6 mins
Fort McMurry, Alberta, tar sand mining

While Canadians turned out en masse for large climate protests last week, the country's oil and gas industry continued its plans to ramp up and export its massive and polluting reserves of tar sands oil, also known as bitumen, to the rest of the world. 

Several recent developments in the rail arena are setting up the tar sands industry to realize those plans in a major way.

'Bomb Trains,' a New Book on the Deadly, Ongoing Threat of Oil by Rail

Read time: 7 mins
Bomb Trains book cover crop

On July 6, 2013, a train hauling crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken region derailed in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, resulting in fires and explosions that killed 47 people and wiped out a large part of the small Canadian town's center. At the time I was living in Albany, New York, which had become a major distribution point for Bakken oil delivered to the Port of Albany in mile-long trains like the one that devastated Lac-Mégantic. In the six months following the deadly disaster, several more trains of Bakken oil derailed and exploded across North America.

As the risk of these oil trains became very apparent, I began investigating how the trains could be allowed to travel through communities like mine in Albany and started publishing my findings here at DeSmog. Now, just after the six year anniversary of the Lac-Mégantic disaster, I have compiled all of that research into the new book Bomb Trains: How Industry Greed and Regulatory Failure Put the Public at Risk.

Despite Risks, Canada's Tar Sands Industry Is Betting Big on Oil Trains

Read time: 6 mins
Canadian Pacific train

Last year, Canada exported a record amount of tar sands oil to the U.S., despite low oil prices leading to major losses once again for the struggling tar sands industry. That achievement required a big bump in hauling oil by rail, with those daily volumes in late 2018 more than double the previous record in 2014 during the first oil-by-rail boom.

Canada's oil industry essentially has reached its limit for exporting oil into the U.S. through pipelines. That's why it's turning to rail to export more and more oil, but as an ever-increasing number of oil trains hit the tracks of North America, expect more accidents and oil spills to follow.

Canadian Government Declares Oil Trains Safe and Plans to Get Into the Oil Train Business

Read time: 8 mins
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on September 5, 2018 to discuss the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

As Canadian oil-by-rail numbers reach record new volumes (and expected to rise), Canada's Transportation Safety Board (TSB) announced recently that it would no longer list shipping the hazardous material by rail as a top safety concern.

Just a month later, the Alberta provincial government — where the majority of tar sands oil is produced — announced plans to bail out the tar sands industry by getting into the oil-by-rail business.

Here's why that's bad news for the communities in both Canada and the U.S. where this influx of oil train traffic will pass.

With Oil by Rail Poised for Comeback, Will Lack of Safety Regulations Mean 'Bomb Trains' Return too?

Read time: 7 mins
Gogama oil derailment and fire

Investors love a good comeback story and right now oil by rail seems to be a story they're pushing to justify investment in rail companies, especially Canadian ones.

But with little change in safety practices or regulations since the 2014 oil-by-rail boom, is the industry setting itself up to once again earn the nickname that rail workers gave oil trains — that is, will “bomb trains” make a comeback?

Canada's Pipeline Challenges Will Force More Tar Sands Oil to Move by Rail

Read time: 8 mins
Gogama oil train derailment in Ontario

The Motley Fool has been advising investors on “How to Profit From the Re-Emergence of Canada’s Crude-by-Rail Strategy.” But what makes transporting Canadian crude oil by rail attractive to investors?

Is This New Tar Sands Technology a Game Changer for Exporting Canada's Bitumen?

Read time: 7 mins
Hockey pucks

A new technology has the potential to transform the transportation of tars sands oil. Right now, the already thick and slow-flowing oil, known as bitumen, has to be diluted with a super-light petroleum product, usually natural gas condensate, in order for it to flow through a pipeline or into a rail tank car. 

However, scientists at the University of Calgary's Schulich School of Engineering inadvertently found a way to make tar sands oil even more viscous, turning it into “self-sealing pellets” that could potentially simplify its transport.

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