Canada oil-by-rail deliveries in 2013 lagged U.S. estimate

Wed Mar 5, 2014 12:28pm EST
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By Patrick Rucker

WASHINGTON, March 5 (Reuters) - Far less Canadian oil sands crude reached the Gulf Coast by rail last year than the U.S. State Department had been expecting, according to data that could flavor the final stages of the Keystone XL pipeline debate.

In January, the State Department concluded that practically nothing would hamper development of the Canadian oil sands since energy companies could easily move the fuel by rail if TransCanada Corp's pipeline was rejected.

Transportation concerns loom large for Western Canada's oil sands sector since the energy patch is vast and productive, but roughly 2,000 miles (3,220 kms) away from the Texas refineries that can turn the commodity into usable fuel.

In March 2013, a U.S. State Department report cited industry projections that about 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basis (WCSB) would be arriving at the Gulf Coast by rail before the end of 2013.

But even in December, when deliveries were near their highest for the year, that tally did not top 40,000 bpd, according to a Reuters analysis of data released by the Energy Information Administration last week.

The data, which details individual deliveries, indicates that monthly oil arrivals by rail were often below 30,000 bpd early last year and then rose unevenly.

The State Department dropped specific projections for oil-by-rail shipments to the Gulf Coast in its final Keystone XL environmental impact study, released on Jan. 31.

Data from Canada's National Energy Board released this week point to slightly higher deliveries to the Gulf Coast but at levels still below official forecasts.   Continued...