CALGARY, Alberta, May 5 (Reuters) - Canadian exports of crude oil by rail rose 83 percent in the last quarter of 2013 from the same period a year earlier, Canada's National Energy board said on Monday.
With oil sands producers scrambling to find alternatives for congested pipelines, crude-by-rail exports jumped to 146,047 barrels per day in the final quarter, from 79,763 bpd in the same period of 2012.
In total Canada exports 2.6 million bpd but limited pipeline capacity can leave crude bottlenecked in Alberta, forcing producers to sell their oil at a discount. Last year heavy Canadian crude traded as low as $40 per barrel below U.S. benchmark prices.
The oil-by-rail boom has gathered pace because of environmental oppositions and regulatory hurdles to proposed pipelines to better-priced U.S. markets and Canada's Pacific Coast. In the first quarter of 2012 just 15,980 bpd were shipped out of Canada by rail.
Last month the U.S. government further delayed a decision on whether to give the go-ahead TransCanada Corp's controversial Keystone XL pipeline, now in its sixth year of waiting for regulatory approval.
A number of Canadian midstream companies are scrambling to take advantage of the delays facing pipeline companies by building new unit train terminals, that can load over 100 cars or up to 70,000 barrels of crude in one go.
Analysts estimate up to around 1.1 million bpd of rail loading capacity could be running in Western Canada by year-end, if terminals are built according to schedule. (Editing by David Gregorio)