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March 30, 2015

EIA rolls out monthly data on crude oil movements by rail

For the first time, EIA is providing monthly data on rail movements of crude oil, which have significantly increased over the past five years. The new data on crude-by-rail (CBR) movements are fully integrated with EIA’s existing monthly petroleum supply statistics, which already include crude oil movements by pipeline, tanker, and barge.

"The new crude-by-rail data provides a clearer picture on a mode of oil transportation that has experienced rapid growth in recent years and is of great interest to policy makers, the public, and industry," said EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski. "EIA expects that the new data it has developed using information provided by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) along with data from other third-party sources and our own survey data, will provide key insights into oil-by-rail movements, including shipments to and from Canada," he said. "We welcome the cooperation of the STB as well as Canada’s National Energy Board in making these data accessible."

EIA is initiating the new series with monthly data from January 2010 through the current reporting month, January 2015. CBR activity is tracked between pairs of Petroleum Administration for Defense District (PADD) regions (inter-PADD), within each region (intra-PADD), and across the U.S.-Canada border.

EIA is sponsoring a webinar on March 31 at 11:00 a.m. to explain the new CBR data. The webinar sign-up information is located on EIA’s new U.S. Movements of Crude Oil By Rail webpage. Upcoming articles in EIA’s Today in Energy and This Week in Petroleum briefs, scheduled for March 31 and April 1, respectively, will provide additional insights on the new data.

Like all of EIA's monthly petroleum data, the new CBR data are subject to revision as new information becomes available. Near-month CBR data are modeled estimates that will be updated upon receipt of quarterly information from the STB. EIA and the Association of American Railroads (AAR) are currently exploring opportunities for EIA to utilize monthly AAR carload data to refine the near-month CBR data.

The new historical CBR data help explain developments in domestic and U.S.-Canada crude oil flows.

  • CBR's role in supporting growth in light tight oil production in the Bakken and Niobrara regions: Bakken oil production has increased by more than 1 million barrels per day (bbl/d) since 2010. Niobrara oil production has experienced 300,000 bbl/d growth from January 2010 to January 2015. Currently 70% of Bakken production and 64% of Niobrara production are transported by rail. The rapid building of unit train loading terminals, which typically require only 6-12 months to construct, has been important to accommodating oil output growth in these regions.
  • CBR's options have enabled oil movements to new destinations: In 2010, crude-by-rail movements were primarily within the Midwest to Cushing, Oklahoma, where the crude would be transferred to pipelines.The flexibility and adaptability of CBR has facilitated new flows from the Midwest to the East Coast and West Coast, as well as from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast and Canada.
  • CBR's impact on other transportation modes: In 2010, the primary flow of crude oil was north from the U.S. Gulf Coast region by pipeline into the Midwest, but significant Bakken production combined with rail transportation reduced the need for the northern flow and introduced pipeline and rail movements of crude oil from the Midwest south into the U.S. Gulf Coast.
  • CBR's contribution to displacement of crude oil imports: In 2010, East Coast refineries were entirely dependent on waterborne deliveries of crude oil from foreign sources. Although crude oil imports from Canada continue to grow, 300,000 bbl/d in rail receipts from the Bakken in 2014 have led to a 60% reduction in waterborne imports from the rest of the world, as indicated by data available through EIA's U.S. Crude Oil Import Tracking Tool.
The product described in this press release was prepared by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the statistical and analytical agency within the U.S. Department of Energy. By law, EIA's data, analysis, and forecasts are independent of approval by any other officer or employee of the United States Government. The views in the product and press release therefore should not be construed as representing those of the Department of Energy or other federal agencies.

EIA Program Contact: Mindi Farber-DeAnda, 202-586-6419, mindi.farber-deanda@eia.gov

EIA Press Contact: Jonathan Cogan, 202-586-8719, jonathan.cogan@eia.gov