Skip to main content

Growing crude by rail transportation for Bakken shale

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) crude by rail has become an increasingly popular transportation method for US producers over the past few years. Producers in North Dakota in particular have used rail to ship crude oil to refineries and midstream companies at newly built unloading terminals on the East Coast and West Coast.

The number of rail carloads of crude oil began to rise in 2012, as production in the Bakken shale and other shale plays grew. According to the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, Bakken rail outflow capacity totaled 965 000 bpd at the end of 2013, compared to 515 000 bpd of pipeline capacity.

East Coast

Domestic crude oil supply to East Coast refineries has increased with rising US crude oil production in the Bakken area and the expansion of crude by rail infrastructure. As a result, imports of light sweet crude from foreign countries gas decreased. Some East Coast refineries have onsite rail unloading terminals, while other refineries receive crude by barge after it has been moved by rail to an unloading terminal:

  • Two refineries, PBF Energy in Delaware City and Philadelphia Energy Solutions in Philadelphia, receive crude oil directly by rail, with unloading capacity of 120 000 bpd and 160 000 bpd respectively.
  • Enbridge’s Eddystone Rail facility, located outside Philadelphia, began operating in May 2014. This facility is able to transfer 80 000 bpd to Philadelphia area refineries by barge after receiving rail shipments.
  • Other rail unloading facilities that transfer crude by rail to barge for transport to refineries are located in Yorktown, Virginia, and Albany, New York.

West Coast

Increased receipts of Bakken crude have partially offset declines in production from California and Alaska. West Coast refineries have ramped up crude by rail volumes in recent years. Several large unloading facilities are planned to come online in the next few years:

  • Tesoro, which currently has capacity to unload 50 000 bpd at its refinery in Anacortes, Washington, has proposed a 360 000 bpd facility at the Port of Vancouver.
  • Several new unloading terminals are planned to open in 2014 and 2015, with most of the unloading capacity in California and Washington.

New rail terminals

New rail terminals have been built to transport crude oil production from the Niobrara Shale formation in Colorado and Wyoming, and the Permian Basin in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico.

EIA’s US Energy Mapping System (illustrated below) enables users to see where these growing crude oil flows by rail are occurring. 

Adapted from a press release by Emma McAleavey.

Read the article online at:

You might also like


Embed article link: (copy the HTML code below):