Today in Energy

September 22, 2017

EIA now publishes estimates of monthly rail shipments of petroleum coke and asphalt

graph of rail shipments of petroleum coke and asphalt, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Petroleum Supply Monthly
Note: Shipments includes domestic intra-PADD and inter-PADD movements. Data for 2017 is the average through June.

To document industry changes and improve data series on petroleum product shipments, EIA’s most recent Petroleum Supply Monthly includes new information on petroleum coke and asphalt movements by rail within the United States and to and from Canada. Similar to EIA’s petroleum and biofuel rail movement data, the new monthly data include rail movements dating back to January 2010. While asphalt shipments have remained steady over that period, petroleum coke has grown by two thirds to support increasing U.S. exports.

Rail movements of petroleum coke and asphalt are tracked within each U.S. Petroleum Administration for Defense District (intra-PADD), between PADDs (inter-PADD), and to and from Canada. The estimates improve EIA's regional supply and disposition balances by providing more information about the mode of transport for petroleum coke and asphalt. With the addition of inter-PADD receipts in the petroleum data, product supplied for petroleum coke and asphalt will be adjusted for each of the PADDs back to 2010, but the U.S. total product supplied will remain the same. Product supplied can be considered a proxy for demand.

Petroleum coke is a byproduct of a coker unit, found at complex refineries, and is used as a fuel for making cement and by the smelting industry to produce aluminum and steel. The heavier a particular crude oil is, the more petroleum coke it will generally yield. Most petroleum coke is produced and exported from the Gulf Coast (PADD 3).The largest volumes of petroleum coke are moved within PADD 3, followed by volumes moved within the Midwest (PADD 2). As exports of petroleum coke have increased, rail shipments have also increased—from 137,000 barrels per day (b/d) in 2010 to 237,000 b/d in 2016 (73%).

Asphalt is primarily used for paving roadways and as construction material (such as roofing shingles), so the movement of asphalt tends to rise during the summer construction season and fall during winter. On an annual basis, total asphalt shipments by rail have remained relatively steady since 2010, averaging about 81,000 b/d. In 2016, about half of all asphalt shipments originated in the Midwest (PADD 2) because the Midwest had the most asphalt production capacity. About half of the rail shipments originating in the Midwest stayed within the region. The East Coast (PADD 1) received the most asphalt by rail in 2016, at about 29,000 b/d.

Principal contributor: Arup Mallik