Last year, the amount of crude oil and petroleum products delivered by rail increased 46 percent compared to 2011, or almost 171,000 carloads, according to the Association of American Railroads. Crude oil accounted for an estimated 38 percent of the combined deliveries in the oil and petroleum products category during 2012, up from 3 percent in 2009. AAR reports that crude was responsible for that growth.
U.S. crude oil production increased by a record 780,000 barrels per day in 2012. One rail tanker car holds 700 barrels of oil, and most unit trains are composed of at least 100 cars.
Coal, the largest commodity transported by rail, showed the largest decline in loadings last year, though it still represented the highest carloads at just more than 6 million. Last year, it dropped by 726,000 carloads, or nearly 11 percent.
Railcar loadings for other nonenergy commodities grew slightly in 2012, the AAR reports. Railcar loads of motor vehicles and crushed stone rose the most; grain and metallic ores showed the biggest drops. Excluding coal, U.S. railcar loads totaled 8.7 million in 2012, up 3 percent from the previous year, according to AAR.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Association
The Board of Weld County Commissioners at 10 a.m. on Wednesday will hear a proposal for the Plains Tampa Loading Facility, proposed by Plains All American Pipeline, to build a facility to accept up to 68,000 barrels of oil per day and ship it out via trains. The facility would be located along Interstate 76 between Keenesburg and Roggen. Many Keenesburg residents already are against the proposal, fearing it will harm their ways of life -- bringing pollution, noise, truck traffic and extra trains into their agricultural settings. The board meets at the Weld County Administration Building, 1150 O St., Greeley.
Though they've long been a delivery system of choice for many commodities, America's railroads are increasingly becoming an integral part of the oil and gas industry, solving a transportation glut that threatens to slow down production and depress prices.
In the next year or so, Weld County residents could be stopped at the tracks by a lot more crude trains hauling the black gold to out-of-state markets. Rail may become the most prevalent mode of hauling away production from northern Colorado and the Wattenberg field for a few more years before more pipelines are built to keep with a steady increase in production that is only expected to keep rising.
"This is anything but normal operations for the industry today," said Greg Haas, manager of research for Houston-based Hart Energy integrated oil and gas markets. "The production end of the business is certainly overwhelming local refineries nearby where they're producing. That's why you have to reach further afield and more to the Gulf Coast or other coasts."
THE WATTENBERG GLUT
The boom that's dominated headlines is real, and producers are now hitting it big in what they once thought were old, tired plays. With increased technology and experimentation, they're coming out with more production than they have ever imagined. In the Rocky Mountain West, horizontal drilling coupled with hydraulic fracturing have created a boom worthy of billions of investments by global oil giants such as Anadarko Petroleum and Noble Energy -- both with so many assets overseas, the U.S. production would seem a pittance.
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