UPDATE 3-Bakken oil rail slows, regulators deny terminal closures

Fri Feb 28, 2014 6:05pm EST
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By Jonathan Leff and Timothy Gardner

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON Feb 28 (Reuters) - Oil shipments by rail from the booming Bakken shale in North Dakota have slowed over the past two days, data showed on Friday, but a U.S. regulator knocked down rumors that some terminals have been shut down due to new rules.

Oil traders are on edge over concerns that an emergency order from the U.S. Department of Transportation this week requiring shippers to test all crude before it is carried by train could cut into deliveries of Bakken crude, as much as 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) of which is shipped by rail.

U.S. crude oil futures prices briefly spiked as much as 60 cents per barrel, or nearly 1 percent, earlier on Friday on speculation that two terminals may have been shut down for non-compliance.

The U.S. Federal Railroad Administration said talk of shutdowns was a rumor. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's has not caused the closure of any terminals as it carries out a series of unannounced inspections as part of its "Bakken Blitz" testing push, an agency source said. Prices held onto earlier gains even after the denials.

However, data from industry intelligence group Genscape did show that loadings at a dozen major Bakken rail terminals had fallen to around 345,000 barrels per barrel on average for the past two days, down from about 550,000 bpd over the previous two weeks, an unusual but not unprecedented dip.

Genscape, which uses cameras to monitor the number of tank cars filled with crude at the terminals, provided no explanation for the dip. Analysts said the ebbing flows could also be due to other factors, including a shortage of oil tank cars and slower rail traffic due to severe winter weather.

The DOT's emergency order called for mandatory testing and also prohibited companies from using the least-hazardous label for all oil shipments, the latest in a string of measures meant to ease public and political concerns over the safety of moving oil by rail after a string of fiery derailments.   Continued...