CALGARY, Alberta, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Canadian crude exports by rail rose 22 percent in the third quarter of 2014 from the same period a year earlier, data showed on Monday, as dedicated oil train terminals in Western Canada ramped up loading capacity.
Canada exported 182,059 barrels per day of crude by rail between July and September 2014, up from 148,929 bpd in the third quarter of 2013, the National Energy Board, the country's oil and gas industry regulator, said.
The vast majority of the exports are to the United States, although earlier this year Suncor Energy shipped Alberta oil sands crude by rail to Canada's East Coast before loading on to a tanker bound for Italy.
The third-quarter 2014 total was 12 percent higher than the second quarter of this year.
Canadian crude producers have been rushing to start shipping crude by rail as an alternative to congested export pipelines to the United States.
More than a dozen new rail terminals are being built and uploading capacity in Western Canada is expected to exceed 1 million bpd by the end of 2015, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
That capacity will be used for shipments within Canada as well as for exports south of the border.
Gibson Energy Inc and U.S. Development Group's new Hardisty, Alberta, unit train terminal, which can load up to 120 rail cars, or about 70,000 barrels of crude, in one go, opened in June and ramped up rapidly to full capacity of 140,000 bpd.
Canexus Corp also reopened its Bruderheim unit train facility near Edmonton, Alberta, in early September after a summer shutdown.
However, in its latest earnings release Canexus said it loaded five unit trains in the third quarter, well below its intended 70,000 bpd capacity. (Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by Peter Galloway)