Crude Oil By Rail

INSIDE ENERGY: Montana Crude Rail Routes Revealed

Jun 27, 2014
insideenergy.org

A dozen or more trains carrying crude oil from the Bakken region are moving across northern Montana every week, skirting the edge of Glacier National Park. More trains -- far fewer in number - pass through populated regions farther south.

Governor Steve Bullock released the route information this week, making Montana the latest state after Washington to buck railroads’ requests to keep the information out of public hands.

credit Andrew Goodson via Flickr

Another rail loading facility for crude oil opened in Wyoming last week, bringing the total to at least seven.

Seventy- thousand barrels of Wyoming oil rolled out of the Black Thunder terminal in the Powder River Basin, headed for a refinery on the East Coast.

“We believe that the location of this particular terminal may be a little more unique to the business as it is in the heart of the basin," says  Steven Huckaby, CEO of Meritage Midstream, the company behind the crude loading facility. "It has a great location advantage to some other terminals."

Hundreds of thousands of tank cars full of crude oil snake across the nation each year, and the number is only increasing.  In the last five years, the number has jumped 14-fold. Along with that, there’s been an increased number of accidents, derailments and spills.

Grace Hood / KUNC

The transport of crude oil by rail has spiked dramatically in recent years. From 2012 to 2013 the amount carried by the country's major freight railroads increased nearly 75 percent, according to the American Association of Railroads.  Even though crude oil accounted for just over 1 percent of overall rail traffic last year, there's growing public concern about the potential oil spills and other hazards.

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.