Oil exports by rail ramping up

New National Energy Board data shows oil-by-rail exports have risen ninefold in less than two years, but they’re still far eclipsed by volumes moving by pipeline.

CALGARY — New National Energy Board data shows oil-by-rail exports have risen ninefold in less than two years, but they’re still far eclipsed by volumes moving by pipeline.

The energy regulator’s figures show more than 146,000 barrels per day were exported on trains in the last three months of 2013, compared with just under 16,000 in the first three months of 2012.

But in all of 2013, only about five per cent of Canada’s 2.6 million barrels per day of crude oil exports moved by rail, according to a separate NEB report released in March.

And of that, 45 per cent — just under 60,000 barrels a day — went to the U.S. Gulf Coast, the refining market coveted by backers of the long-stalled Keystone XL pipeline.

To put the rail figures in perspective, Keystone XL alone aims to ship 830,000 barrels per day of crude.

Even still, Greenpeace campaigner Keith Stewart says the fact that crude by rail continues to grow after last summer’s disaster in Lac-Megantic, Que., that killed 47 people is “alarming.”

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