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EIA data tracks hydrocarbon gas liquids shipments

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Adding to its data series of rail movements of crude oil, ethanol, and biodiesel, the US EIA recently released data on rail movements of propane, propylene, normal butane, and isobutane. These four petroleum products make up the majority of hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGLs) moved by rail. The new series are integrated with EIA's existing petroleum supply monthly statistics, which already include movements of crude oil and select products by pipeline, tanker, and barge.

The new HGL-by-rail series includes shipments between and within Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts (PADDs) as well as shipments to and from Canada. The new data improve EIA’s petroleum statistics by providing more accurate product supplied information for each region. The EIA published the series with monthly data from January 2010 through November 2016, the current reporting month. EIA developed the new series using information provided by the US Surface Transportation Board (STB).

Pipelines are the primary mode of transport for crude oil and petroleum products, including HGLs. Rail shipments of propane, propylene, normal butane, and isobutane account for nearly a quarter of all inter-PADD movements of these HGLs. EIA’s new data will complement existing data on the shipment of HGLs by pipeline and by tanker and barge. Rail movements of these products averaged 426 000 bpd in 2016 (Jan–Nov). By comparison, rail movements of ethanol and crude oil averaged 637 000 bpd and 478 000 bpd, respectively, during the same period.

Propane volumes moved by rail are the largest among the four HGL products and increased from 106 000 bpd in 2010 to 244 000 in 2016 (Jan – Nov) as domestic propane production has increased. While most propane is shipped by pipeline, rail movements are more common than other HGL-by-rail shipments and are often higher during winter months when propane is used as a heating fuel.

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