Tag Archives: North American light crude oils

Held up in court for a year, Maryland oil train reports outdated

Repost from McClatchyDC

Held up in court for a year, Maryland oil train reports outdated

By Curtis Tate, September 12, 2015

•  McClatchy received reports it asked for in 2014
•  Documents contained data previously revealed
•  Economics of crude by rail have shifted since

After more than a year, McClatchy finally got the oil train reports it had requested from Maryland.

And they were badly out of date.

Last year, McClatchy filed open-records requests in about 30 states for the documents, and was the first news organization to do so in Maryland, in June 2014.

Maryland was poised to release the records in July 2014, when two railroads, CSX and Norfolk Southern, sued the state Department of the Environment to block the disclosure.

Finally last month, a state judge ruled in the favor of the release, marking the first time a court had affirmed what many other states had already done without getting sued.

The documents McClatchy and other news organizations ultimately received were dated June 2014, not long after the U.S. Department of Transportation began requiring the railroads to notify state officials of shipments of 1 million gallons or more of Bakken crude oil.

After more than a year, however, the economics of shipping crude by rail had changed substantially.

Amid a slump in oil prices, refineries once receiving multiple trainloads of North American crude oil every day have switched, at least temporarily, to waterborne foreign imports.

The trend is reflected from the East Coast to the West Coast, where long strings of surplus tank cars have been parked on lightly used rail lines, generating rental income for small railroads but also the ire of nearby residents.

The documents released in Maryland show that in June 2014, Norfolk Southern was moving as many as 16 oil trains a week through Cecil County on its way to a refinery in Delaware.

But McClatchy has known that since August 2014, when it received a response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Amtrak.

The Delaware News Journal reported that the PBF Refinery in Delaware City, Del., now receives only about 40,000 barrels a day of crude by rail. That’s about 56 loaded tank cars, or half a unit train, nowhere close to the volume of mid-2014.

The June 2014 Maryland documents also show that CSX was moving as many as five oil trains a week on a route from western Maryland through downtown Baltimore toward refineries in Philadelphia.

But that had been clear since at least October 2014, when the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency released its oil train reports showing an identical number of CSX trains crossing from western Pennsylvania into Maryland, then back into southeast Pennsylvania.

CSX told the Baltimore Sun that it had not regularly moved a loaded oil train through Baltimore since the third quarter of 2014. The company had earlier told the newspaper that it moved empty oil trains through the city and state.

Federal regulators never required railroads to report empty oil train movements.

The vast majority of loaded CSX oil trains move to Philadelphia via Cleveland, Buffalo, Albany, N.Y., and northern New Jersey, according to records from Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

Valero will soon have fifth refinery processing 100 percent North American crude

Repost from the San Antonio Business Journal
[Editor: Note brief reference to Valero’s Benicia Refinery at end of this article.   – RS]

Valero will soon have fifth refinery processing 100 percent North American crude

By Sergio Chapa, Sep 11, 2015, 6:44pm CDT
File photo Valero Energy Corporation's Jean Gaulin Refinery in Quebec City
File photo – Valero Energy Corporation’s Jean Gaulin Refinery in Quebec City

San Antonio-based Valero Energy Corp. is expected to have its fifth refinery capable of processing nothing but North American crude by the end of the year.

Valero (NYSE: VLO) revealed in an investors’ presentation released earlier this week that its Jean Gaulin Refinery in Quebec will be processing 100 percent North American crude oil by the end of the year.

Company figures show that the refinery was 100 percent dependent on foreign crude oil in first quarter 2013, but production from the tar sands region of Canada and the shale plays of the United States has dramatically changed the situation.

The Jean Gaulin Refinery is processing about 80 percent North American-sourced crude oil but will be at 100 percent once a project to modify the Enbridge Line 9B Pipeline is completed in the fourth quarter. The project will reverse the flow of the pipeline to enable oil from the tar sands region of Alberta to flow east to Valero’s refinery in Quebec.

Most refineries were built decades ago and were configured to process to Middle Eastern oil, but Valero spokesman Bill Day told the San Antonio Business Journal that the Jean Gaulin Refinery is lined up to be the fifth of the company’s refinery capable of processing 100 percent North American crude oil.

Day said Valero’s Ardmore, McKee, Memphis and Three Rivers refineries can already process 100 percent North American crude oil, while other plants are processing an increasing amount of North American crude.

The investors presentation shows that Valero is expanding its capacity to process a total of 185,000 barrels per day of light sweet crude from the Eagle Ford and other shale plays at the company’s McKee, Houston and Corpus Christi refineries in Texas.

Day said that the addition of the Keystone XL Pipeline would enable Valero to replace foreign heavy crude with heavy crude from Canada. He also noted that a proposed rail terminal at the company’s Benicia refinery in California, would enable Valero to offset foreign crude brought in by ship with North American crude brought in by rail.

U.S. exporting more crude oil to Canada

Repost from Bloomberg Business News

Canadian Refiners Set to Buy More U.S. Oil With Wider Discount

By Robert Tuttle, March 18, 2015 4:14 PM PDT 

(Bloomberg) — Cheaper North American oil is poised to replace West African and Middle East cargoes at eastern Canadian refineries with U.S. crude prices at the lowest level compared with the international benchmark in 14 months.

Imports to Canada from outside North America averaged 244,089 barrels a day this month through March 15, down 27 percent from a year earlier, according to New York-based ClipperData, which tracks tanker shipments.

Canada, the world’s fifth-largest oil supplier, produces most of its oil in the western province of Alberta and exports it south to the U.S. A lack of pipelines means Canada’s eastern refineries depend on imports by tanker and train.

U.S. export “volumes have been growing pretty exponentially,” Katherine Spector, a commodities strategist at CIBC World Markets Inc. in New York, said by phone Wednesday. U.S. oil is “going to Eastern Canadian refineries and displacing waterborne light crude.”

U.S. crude oil exports averaged 478,000 barrels a day the week ended March 13, up almost eightfold from a year earlier, preliminary data from the Energy Information Administration show. Canada, the only country that U.S. producers can export to without restrictions, receives the bulk of the shipments.

Oil has flowed north as West Texas Intermediate crude’s discount to Brent averaged $9.43 a barrel this month from $2.41 in January as U.S. stockpiles rose to a 458.5 million barrels, the most in decades.

The U.S. displaced Algeria in 2013 as Canada’s biggest source of imported oil and accounted for about half of imports in the first eight months of last year, the country’s National Energy Board said in a November report. The trend was driven by availability of tight oil from North Dakota as well as Texas, New Mexico and Colorado.

Bakken crude from North Dakota traded at about $40 a barrel today versus $55 for oil from West Africa, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Especially with lower prices, a difference of a dollar or so in transport costs is significant,” Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research in Winchester, Massachusetts, said by phone Wednesday. “If you can bring it in from the U.S. rather than West Africa, it’s a little closer and cheaper.”

Expanded rail capacity has linked U.S. oil producers with Canada, Spector said. The movement parallels the movement of Bakken crude to U.S. East Coast by rail, which cut the region’s imports of crude from Nigeria by half in two years and from Algeria by 81 percent, EIA data show.

“The maritime provinces of eastern Canada do resemble the U.S. East Coast in many ways,” Antoine Halff, head of the International Energy Agency’s oil industry and markets division, said in a March 18 phone interview. “When Bakken crude started being railed to the U.S. East Coast in significant quantities, it displaced imports from West Africa.”

Rocklin Deputy Fire Chief reports on oil train hazards

Repost from the Roseville & Granite Press Tribune

Oil train wrecks across nation put Rocklin on alert

South Placer train yards at center of Valero’s proposal
By Scott Thomas Anderson, Editor, October 8, 2014
The train tracks that run between Rocklin and Roseville will be filled with nonstop oil trains if Vallero Refinery’s plan is approved. | Ike Dodson – The Placer Herald

The U.S. and Canada have together experienced seven sizable accidents in the last two years involving oil shipped across rail lines — and Rocklin leaders have no intention of seeing their city become the eighth location on the list as Valero moves forward with plans to push thousands of tanker-cars filled with “black gold” through the region.

Not without a plan, at least.

Two months ago, the Valero Refinery plant in Benicia, some 81 miles from Rocklin, submitted an Environmental Impact Report to California regulators for its Crude by Rail Project. Valero’s plan would bring individual train cars full of crude oil from Montana, North Dakota and Saskatchewan converging on the Union Pacific rail yard in Roseville, where they would be assembled into 50-car trains and then sent on to Benicia. According to the EIR, Valero hopes to send two of these 50-car convoys plugging through the older sections of South Placer County every day.

Since the release of Valero’s EIR, Rocklin Deputy Fire Chief Richard Holmes has been examining potential dangers for the city. In a recent staff report submitted to council members, Holmes noted that, between 2013 and 2014, seven American and Canadian cities have been forced to respond to serious accident involving crude oil, ethanol or similar petrochemicals being shipped across rails.

“The hazard identification of crude oil is ‘immediately hazardous’ with a highly flammable distinction,” Holmes wrote. “There have been many major accidents involving crude oil in North America … these events demonstrate that accidents can happen.”

Holmes added that Rocklin’s risks are likely softened by the fact its train tracks run only a few miles from Roseville’s Union Pacific yard, thus forcing any oil tankers heading northwest to depart on their way from one city to the other at “relatively slow” rates of speed.

However, even that rare bright spot in Holmes’ report may be of limited consolation to Rocklin city council members. In February, an oil train that crashed in Lynchburg, Virginia, was traveling at only 24 miles per hour, according to its ownership company, CSX. In that case, seven oil cars spilled into the environment — with three plunging directly into the James River.

The Lynchburg oil train wreck is in addition to the seven larger recent disasters Holmes mentioned in his analysis.

Rocklin Fire Department’s immediate conclusions in the face of Valero’s plans involve identifying the community’s specific risks if an oil train accident occurs, and then gearing training and preparedness for those exact scenarios. One asset the fire department currently already has is a foam tender with over 1,000 gallons of Class B foam. If the Valero EIR passes, obtaining more backup resources may be a topic the city council considers.

Rocklin City Public Information Officer Karen Garner said the recent staff report to leadership is, for the moment, an overview.

“The presentation was just about presenting the facts and current status of a topic that’s received a lot of attention lately,” Garner said this week. “No request for additional equipment or resources is being made at this time.”