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Tracking oil by rail

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

For the first time, the EIA is providing monthly data on rail movements of crude oil, which have significantly increased over the past five years. The data on crude by rail (CBR) movements area integrated with EIA’s existing monthly petroleum supply statistics, which already include movements by pipeline, tanker and barge. The new monthly time series of crude oil rail movements includes shipments to and from Canada and dramatically reduces the absolute level of unaccounted for volumes in EIA’s monthly balances for each region. CBR activity is tracked between pairs of PADD regions, within each region, and across the US/Canada border. The EIA has also developed the new series using information provided by the US Surface Transportation Board (STB) along with data from Canada’s National Energy Board, and EIA survey data. Total CBR movements in the US and between the US and Canada were more than 1 million bpd in 2014, up from 55 000 bpd in 2010. Regional distribution of these movements also changed over this period.


The Williston Basin in North Dakota, PADD 2, was the primary origin of 55 000 bpd of CBR shipments in 2010, with most shipments remaining in the Midwest region. Rail tank cars were used mainly to move Bakken crude oil to the Cushing, Oklahoma, storage and pipeline hub. The remaining volumes of Bakken CBR shipments went to Gulf Coast and East Coast refineries.


Total CBR shipments were 124 000 bpd in 2011, more than double 2010 levels. The Bakken formation in PADD 2 remained the primary source of CBR shipments in 2011. Movements within PADD 2 and from PADD 2 – 3 accounted for most of the shipments. PADD 2 – 3 volume grew 36 000 bpd. Bakken crude by rail shipments to refineries on the East and West coasts both increased more than 200% from the previous year while Bakken crude to West Coast refineries increased by over 400%.


The total volume of CBR shipments more than tripled from the previous year, hitting 440 000 bpd. Almost all of the growth came from PADD 2 shipments to other regions of the country. The largest flow was from PADD 2 – 3, with rail substituting for a lack of available pipeline capacity to carry crude oil to Gulf Coast refineries. PADD 2 crude by rail shipments to East Coast and West Coast refineries continued to grow, as did Western Canadian crude by rail to US refineries. Niobrara crude from PADD 4 started moving by rail to Gulf Coast refineries.


Total CBR movements nearly doubled again in 2013, reaching 816 000 bpd. PADD 3 refineries received 352 000 bpd, of 43% of all crude moving by rail. Bakken crude from PADD 2 to coastal refineries dominated CBR shipments in 2013. Movements were affected by major construction efforts to complete unit train loading and unloading terminals.


Growth in total CBR movements slowed, but the average CBR volume exceeded 1 million bpd. Bakken crude from PADD 2 continued to dominate flows, making up 70% of CBR volumes. Niobrara crude from PADD 4 grew in importance as the second largest origin for rail shipments. PADD 1 refineries were the primary destination for CBR receipts in 2014.

Edited from press release by Claira Lloyd

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