Category Archives: Tar sands crude

Canada Is Now A Land Of Oil Trains… wonder where it’s all going?

Repost from Huffington Post Canada
[Editor: …and this Canada news is relevant here in the U.S. because…?? Well, check out the map below.  – R.S.]

Canada Is Now A Land Of Oil Trains

This is happening even as Canadian crude sells at prices not seen in the oil markets since the 1990s.

By Daniel Tencer, 11/21/2018 12:04 EST

Crude oil and other petroleum products are transported in rail tanker cars on a Canadian Pacific Railway train near Medicine Hat, Alta., Sept. 10, 2018.
Crude oil and other petroleum products are transported in rail tanker cars on a Canadian Pacific Railway train near Medicine Hat, Alta., Sept. 10, 2018. LARRY MACDOUGAL/CANADIAN PRESS

Canada’s oil industry is facing record-low prices for its exports, a glaring lack of infrastructure to bring its product to market, and an uncertain long-term outlook.

But none of that is stopping the oil patch from increasing production. And as one pipeline project after another fails to launch, the industry is relying more heavily than ever to ship its oil by rail.

According to Statistics Canada, the volume of oil on Canada’s railroads has soared by 64.6 per cent in just the past year. And in the past seven years, the number of rail cars carrying oil across Canada has quadrupled.

Oil-by-rail shipments in Canada reached a record high of nearly 20,000 rail cars in August this year. By volume, oil-by-rail is up by more than 64 per cent in the past year. HUFFPOST CANADA 

The spike in oil trains began around 2011, a few years before the July, 2013, disaster in which a 74-car oil train derailed in Lac-Megantic, Que., killing 47 people.

Besides the obvious risk to the environment and to human life, there is also the fact that oil producers are crowding out other industries that rely on rail.

This leads to “higher costs and shipping delays for other industries,” Bank of Montreal senior economist Sal Guatieri wrote in a client note Tuesday.

“Surging railway loadings of oil contrast with flat loadings for shipments of wheat, copper, machinery and many other products in recent years.”

And if you think these oil trains don’t come through your neighbourhood, that they’re somehow limited to Alberta, take a look at this map of the oil rail network in Canada, provided by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers:

A map of Canada’s oil-by-rail network and its connection to U.S. terminals. CANADIAN ASSOCIATION OF PETROLEUM PRODUCERS  [click to enlarge]
This massive expansion of oil-by-rail took place even as oil prices remained relatively weak, Canadian oil exports particularly so. This is especially true today; North American oil prices have dropped by some 31 per cent since a peak in early October, and closed at around US$53 on Tuesday.

Canadian oil has been selling at an enormous discount to that, recently trading below $14 a barrel. The last time global oil prices were anywhere near that low would have been the late 1990s.

But it’s not just Canada that seems to be desperate to get as much of its oil out of the ground right now as possible.

“Saudi Arabia is pumping oil like never before, its output surging to a record 10.6 million barrels per day in October,” National Bank of Canada economist Krishen Rangasamy wrote in a client note Wednesday.

“Iraq’s output is also on the rise as production from the Kirkuk region comes back online. Those are more than offsetting declines in sanction-hit Iran.”

Not to mention, U.S. oil extraction has surged in recent years to the point it is now the world’s largest producer of crude.

Meanwhile, traders are losing faith in oil’s prospects as the global economy shows signs of weakening.

“The deceleration of world economic growth ─ as evidenced by ugly (third-quarter economic) results in places such as Japan and the Eurozone … has clearly hurt demand for oil,” Rangasamy wrote.

Amidst all this, some executives in Canada’s oil patch have called for the Alberta government to use its existing powers to limit the amount of oil being pumped. So far, the province hasn’t indicated it plans to follow that advice.

Hey, at least we get cheaper gas

But there is one benefit to consumers from crude producers’ race to the bottom of the oil deposit: Lower fuel prices.

“The free-fall on energy markets … helped force down pump prices across Canada by 2.1 cents a litre to $1.13, their lowest since October 2017,” analyst Dan McTeague of GasBuddy wrote this week.

“As pump prices now stand 5.6 cents a litre lower than on this same day last year, much of the credit can be given to the unexpected and likely temporary decline in oil prices, which could be subject to an upturn once OPEC and Russia agree to production curbs beginning in December.”

    Until California curbs its oil refineries, it won’t meet its climate goals (Benicia & others are heroes)

    Repost from the Los Angeles Times
    [Editor: Significant quote, Benicia in final paragraph – “In the absence of action at the state level, it has fallen to localities to prevent refineries from at least increasing crude oil imports to their facilities. Over the last decade elected officials in half-a-dozen communities from Benicia to San Luis Obispo County have blocked refinery infrastructure projects that would allow more crude oil imports. They’re the real heroes of California’s climate saga — too bad they won’t be the ones in the spotlight at the summit.”  – RS]

    Until California curbs its oil refineries, it won’t meet its climate goals

    By Jacques Leslie, Sep 11, 2018 | 4:15 AM
    Until California curbs its oil refineries, it won't meet its climate goals
    The Phillips 66 refinery in the Wilmington neighborhood of Los Angeles. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

    While Gov. Jerry Brown and other California leaders bask under an international spotlight at this week’s Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, there is one highly relevant topic they’re not likely to bring up: oil refineries.

    That’s because refineries are crucially absent from California’s climate change strategy. The state has justifiably gotten credit for addressing climate change issues that the nation won’t — promoting renewable energy, cap-and-trade greenhouse gas emission limits, and electric vehicles — but it has backed off from challenging refineries, the centerpieces of California’s oil supply infrastructure.

    Concentrated in Los Angeles’ South Bay and the San Francisco Bay Area, the state’s 17 refineries comprise the largest oil processing center in western North America. Unless emissions from those refineries are curbed, the state has no chance of meeting its long-range climate change goals.

    Greg Karras, a senior scientist at Huntington Park-based Communities for a Better Environment, calculates that without restraints on refineries, even if emission reductions from all other sources hit their targets, oil sector pollution through 2050 would cause the state to exceed its overall climate goals by roughly 40%.

    “Refineries have been largely exempted from the state’s cap and trade program, which charges fees for emissions.”

    That’s primarily because refineries have been largely exempted from the state’s cap and trade program, which charges fees for emissions. Last year, the legislature extended the program for another decade, from 2020 to 2030, but only after bowing to the oil industry’s wishes. To win a needed two-thirds majority, cap and trade supporters exempted the industry from fees for all but a tenth of refinery emissions through 2030. The legislation also prohibited regional air districts from imposing their own limits on refinery carbon dioxide emissions, a severe blow to communities suffering from pollution from nearby operations. Instead of curbing refineries, these provisions gave them a decade-long free pass.

    To make matters worse, the oil that is being processed is bound to get dirtier, resulting in a higher rate of greenhouse gas emissions throughout the fuel-production chain. Oil used by the state’s refineries already contains the highest intensity of greenhouse gas pollutants of any refining region in the country. As drillers pump the dregs from the state’s nearly spent fields, that intensity is increasing.

    With California oil extraction in decline, its refineries will want to import more crude oil from other states and nations. That could include tapping the Canadian tar sands, notorious for its off-the-charts, climate-busting pollutants. Completion of the stalled Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in Canada would facilitate what Greenpeace calls a “tanker superhighway” from Vancouver to California ports. California refineries have tried to win approval for rail terminals and ports that would receive tar sands oil but have so far been blocked by local governments.

    The refineries’ contributions to greenhouse gas emissions don’t end with their own production, of course. When the fuel they produce is used, it’s one of the primary contributors to climate change. As California shifts to renewable energy and electric vehicles, less refined fuel will be consumed here and more will be exported to other states and nations.

    As a result, the state could become, in Karras’ words, “the gas station of the Pacific Rim.” And as exports grow to countries like India with lax environmental standards, refineries won’t even need to meet California’s more stringent regulations on fuel composition; instead, they will export more pollution.

    The main reason state leaders have done little to limit oil supply is obvious: The oil industry remains a formidable adversary, wielding its financial and lobbying might to head off restraints. For virtually all Republican state legislators and a substantial number of Democrats, oil supply is too hot a topic to touch, Karras told me.

    Meanwhile, state policy calls for greenhouse gas emissions to drop by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. Given the oil industry’s cap and trade refinery exemptions in place through 2030, the only way to achieve that level is to place drastic limits on refineries as soon as those exemptions expire, which is unlikely to happen. A more realistic approach would remove the oil industry’s exemptions and impose cuts of 5% a year on refinery emissions immediately — an urgent task that state leaders have shown no interest in carrying out.

    In the absence of action at the state level, it has fallen to localities to prevent refineries from at least increasing crude oil imports to their facilities. Over the last decade elected officials in half-a-dozen communities from Benicia to San Luis Obispo County have blocked refinery infrastructure projects that would allow more crude oil imports. They’re the real heroes of California’s climate saga — too bad they won’t be the ones in the spotlight at the summit.

    Jacques Leslie is contributing writer to Opinion.

      Canadian railways sign deal for more tar-sands crude by rail

      Repost from Reuters
      [Quote: “Increased crude shipping by rail…would represent progress in moving more Canadian oil to U.S. refineries.” ]

      Cenovus inks deal to move more crude on Canadian National Railway -source

      by Julie Gordon, Rod Nickel, September 7, 2018 / 11:18 AM

      VANCOUVER/WINNIPEG (Reuters) – Cenovus Energy Inc (CVE.TO), a major Canadian oil producer, has signed a deal to move more crude with the Canadian National Railway Co (CNR.TO), a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

      Rail cars including crude tankers are seen at the Canadian Nationals (CN) Thornton Railroad Yards in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, June 21, 2012. REUTERS/Andy Clark/File Photo

      The deal is one of many being quietly signed that, along with the expedited deliveries of new locomotives, will help boost Canada’s crude-by-rail shipments 50 percent by year end, a government consultant told Reuters separately.

      The source said the Cenovus-CN deal was inked days before a Canadian court last week overturned the approval of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion.

      Shipper commitments put CN and smaller rival Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd (CP.TO) in position to collectively move more than 300,000 barrels per day by December, said Greg Stringham, a consultant who mediated talks among oil producers and railways for the Alberta government this year.

      Stringham did not directly address the Cenovus deal, but said new crude-by-rail “contracts are being signed. Not all of those been disclosed yet, but it is continuing.”

      Oil train cars are stopped in their tracks as smoke from a fire rises at the Port Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, March 4, 2015. REUTERS/Ben Nelms/File Photo

      The railways, burned a few years ago when booming demand for crude-by-rail vanished as oil prices fell and pipeline space opened, are now seeking rich multi-year, take-or-pay deals from producers.The 300,000 bpd would be 50 percent higher than June’s record 200,000 bpd and double 150,000 bpd achieved in December 2017. It is expected to further increase in 2019 as locomotive orders start to catch up with demand.

      The two railways and Cenovus declined to comment. The source declined to be identified as the deal is not public.

      Cenovus CEO Alex Pourbaix said in July that he was considering a multi-year commitment to move 50,000 to 60,000 bpd by rail.

      Cenovus shares rebounded to trade up as much as 0.86 percent soon after the news. Earlier in the day, they had fallen 6.4 percent after Goldman Sachs downgraded the stock to sell.

      CN shares were down 0.5 percent.

      SAFETY CONCERNS

      Increased crude shipping by rail, while still far short of Western Canada’s rail-loading capacity of nearly 1 million bpd, would represent progress in moving more Canadian oil to U.S. refineries. It remains a tiny fraction of the total 3.3 million bpd on average exported, mostly to the U.S., in 2017.

      But as crude shipments increase, so do safety concerns. In 2013, a runaway train carrying crude exploded in the Quebec town of Lac Megantic killing 47 people. In June, some 230,000 gallons of crude spilled into an Iowa river after a train derailed.

      The head of Canada’s transportation regulator said last month that stronger tank cars for transporting flammable liquids should be required sooner than a 2025 deadline.

      Enbridge Inc’s (ENB.TO) oversubscribed Mainline pipeline rations space each month as oil producers expand production, driving a bigger discount in Western Canada’s heavy crude compared to the North American benchmark CLc1.

      The increased crude by rail volumes could not happen without new locomotives that the railways are placing into service faster than before.

      “Probably the biggest constraint that was identified was the lack of locomotives being available,” said Stringham, adding that the railways went to their suppliers and were able to cut delivery times from 24 months down to nine to 12 months. CN said on Wednesday that it had ordered an extra 60 locomotives from General Electric Co (GE.N), adding to a previous deal for 200 locomotives over three years. The original order will now be completed in two years, and the additional 60 are due in 2020, CN spokesman Patrick Waldron said. Those locomotives will be used for energy transport, along with intermodal, coal and agricultural products. Western Canada’s crude inventories reached 36.3 million barrels for the week ending Aug. 31, a record level since Genscape began monitoring in 2010 as oil production expands faster than transport capacity, analyst Dylan White said.

      Reporting by Julie Gordon in Vancouver, Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; additional reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Denny Thomas and David Gregorio