Wyoming could see more crude-by-rail shipments in the future

Jan 6, 2014

Despite recent accidents with shipment of crude oil by rail, including a derailment and explosion in North Dakota on Monday, industry analysts say it will continue to be a popular mode of moving oil out of the Bakken.

Trisha Curtis is with the Energy Policy Research Foundation. She says most crude from the Bakken does not travel through Wyoming, but that the state could see a spike in crude-by-rail traffic with new rail loading facilities coming online in the next year.

"There are seven crude-by-rail facilities that are proposed or planned or in construction in Wyoming," Curtis says. "When those are built, your share of how much is actually coming in and out of Wyoming will increase significantly."

BNSF says right now it moves about eight loaded crude trains nationwide every day, but couldn’t provide Wyoming-specific data. Union Pacific says it moves almost no crude oil through the state. Those two railways account for more than 90 percent of rail traffic within the state.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a warning this week saying that crude from the Bakken oil field might be more explosive than other types of crude, but Curtis says that will likely only be a small fraction of the oil being shipped through the state.
 "You have Canadian crude that could be transported out… you have Canadian heavy, Canadian synthetic… you have Wyoming crude obviously, and then Bakken crude that could come down the pipeline and then be transported via rail… so it’s a huge array of options in terms of what can be moved from those facilities."

Curtis says in light of that, accurate labeling will be particularly important to make sure that the oil is being transported safely.