Posts Tagged ‘Crude oil trains’

Pipeline Closure May Help Rails

July 7, 2020

A federal judge has ordered a pipeline carrying North Dakota crude oil to be shut down for a year while the line undergoes an environmental review.

The pipeline closure is seen as a potential boon to moving crude oil by rail.

The pipeline is the largest serving the Bakken shale basin and links a terminal in Patoka, Illinois, about 75 miles east of St. Louis.

The pipeline has a capacity of 557,000 barrels a day or the equivalent of seven to eight crude oil trains.

Industry observers said that although some oil could be diverted to rail shipment, other pipelines are capable of picking up the oil sent via the closed pipeline, which is owned by Energy Transfer.

Approximately 36 percent of the North American tank car fleet is in storage. Some believe that a barrier to moving more crude by rail could be lack of operating crews due to recent furloughs by railroads.

Tank Trains Routed Off Ft. Wayne Line

April 13, 2020

Norfolk Southern earlier this month began routing crude oil and ethanol trains off the Fort Wayne Line in favor of other routes that will take them through Cleveland.

An online report indicated that NS rerouted the trains to avoid making trackage rights payments to the Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern, which operates the Fort Wayne Line in northern Indiana and western Ohio.

NS also said it wanted to solve crew balancing problems with the divergence of loaded and empty routings.

The tank car trains began using the Fort Wayne line around 2014 when congestion on the Chicago Line brought traffic to a near standstill at times.

The trains used the CF&E to and from Chicago via Fort Wayne, Indiana.

These trains sometimes operated with motive power from the originating railroad, hence the need to have an NS lead unit equipped with cab signals for travel east of Cleveland.

The current operating plan is to route the tank car trains via Bellevue where they will receive locomotives equipped with cab signals.

Between Chicago and Bellevue, these trains can be routed either via Fort Wayne on the former Nickel Plate Road mainline or to Toledo on the Chicago and thence to Bellevue on the Toledo District via Oak Harbor and Fremont.

After receiving a cab signal equipped locomotive in Bellevue, the tanker trains will operate on the former NKP to Vermillion and take the connection to the Chicago Line.

It is thought that trains leaving Chicago with solid NS motive power consist can take the Chicago Line between Chicago and Cleveland.

The empty tank cars will operate on the reverse routes via Bellevue.

In the past, eastbound tank car trains using the Chicago Line have sometimes added cab signal equipped NS units at Berea siding or near Rockport Yard in Cleveland.

This practice is expected to continue if Bellevue lacks a cab signal equipped unit for a particular train.

The Fort Wayne Line was at one time the former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline between Chicago and Pittsburgh. It runs in Ohio through Bucyrus, Crestline, Mansfield, Wooster, Orrville, Massillon and Canton.

East of Alliance, the Fort Wayne Line is a busy railroad handling NS traffic off the Chicago Line at Cleveland that is bound for Pittsburgh and points east.

West of Alliance the Fort Wayne Line has far less traffic, including manifest freights that operate Conway Yard-Bellevue and Conway Yard-Chattanooga, Tennsessee. There is also a local between Canton and Mansfield.

Trains affected include the 66R, 66X and 66Z, which traditionally have originated on, respectively, Canadian National, Canadian Pacific and BNSF.

Refinery Closing to Cut CSX Crude Oil Traffic

June 28, 2019

CSX is expected to seen a drop in crude oil traffic following the closure of refinery near Philadelphia that sustained a massive fire last week.

The Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery along the Schuykill River will be shut down by its owner. It is the largest refinery on the East Coast.

Some of the crude oil processed at the refinery originated in the Bakken oil field region of North Dakota on BNSF and was interchanged to CSX in Chicago.

The refinery was built in the 19th century and had a capacity of two 120-car unit trains per day, which would represent 40 percent of the refinery’s capacity of 335,000 barrels per day.

The rail unloading facility at the refinery was rebuilt in 2013 with financial help from the state.

In a statement, Philadelphia Energy Solutions said the damage caused by the fire “has made it impossible for us to continue operations.”

Trains magazine reported that some energy analysts said the refinery had slim slim profit margins and its closing is not surprising.

Rail Crude Oil Shipments Down 45%

August 4, 2016

Crude oil shipments by rail fell 45 percent in the first five months of 2016 when compared with the same period in 2015.

The U.S. Department of Energy said crude oil shipments averaged 443,000 barrels per day this year.

train image2About half of the decline was due to fewer shipments of crude oil from the Midwest to the East Coast.

The DOE said crude oil shipments by rail have been in decline since summer 2015 due to a narrowing of price differences between domestic and imported crude oil, the opening of new crude oil pipelines, and declining production in the Midwest and Gulf Coast on-shore regions.

In a report, the department said the economics of crude-by-rail transportation depend on the relationship between the prices of domestic and international crude oils.

Domestic crude oil priced in the Midwest and western Texas are no longer heavily discounted relative to imported crude oils priced in the North Sea.

DOE said the narrower the spread between domestic and imported crude oils, the more likely that coastal refiners will choose imported crude oil rather than domestic supplies shipped by rail.

Although it suffered the largest fall, the market for Midwest crude oil to the East Coast remains the largest in the U.S., accounting for 176,000 barrels per day or 45 percent of the total crude oil moved by rail within the United States in May 2016.

Chasing an Oil Train Down the C&P

April 18, 2016






This past Saturday I chased an oil train from Alliance to Rochester, Pennsylvania, on the Old C&P via Yellow Creek, Ohio

Even though it had a Norfolk Southern cab signal equipped engine, the 64R was routed down the old line from Alliance.

Our first stop was at Homeworth where a double concrete arch bridge crosses a road and creek.

Next was Summitville at the top of the grade. We got it at Salineville (not pictured) and then again at Yellow Creek.

While waiting at Yellow Creek some ATV and dirt bike riders provided some entertainment.

From Yellow Creek which is the junction of the line to Mingo Junction it turned east to head for Conway.

Article and photographs by Todd Dillon

Bakken Crude Producers Cutting Their Production

March 14, 2016

An analyst who studies the crude oil industry reports that producers in the Bakken oil field are reducing their production and that trend is expected to continue through 2016.

Falling oil prices have triggered the production cuts. Much of the oil pumped in the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana is transported by rail.

The report by RBN Energy LLC analyst Sandy Fielden did not provide any information about shipping of Bakken crude by rail.

“For the past, year many shale oil producers have defied the expectations of many and kept output at or near to record levels in the face of falling oil prices and much tougher economics,”  Fielden wrote. “Improvements in productivity, cost cutting and a concentration on ‘sweet spot’ wells that generate high initial production rates have all helped cash-strapped producers survive. But with oil prices so far in 2016 stuck in the $35/Bbl and lower range and with the worldwide crude storage glut still weighing on the market, producers are finally pulling back.”

In December there were 1,183 inactive wells in North Dakota and the number of new permits to drill wells has reached a seven-year low.

Fielden said the operators of the inactive wells have essentially abandoned them, usually because they are losing money.

The report described these wells as being older and having very low production rates

Fielden said the expectation that oil prices might remain low for a long time has shaken the market for crude oil from shale in the United States with many smaller operators having gone bankrupt.

He acknowledged that the extent of the production decline remains difficult to forecast because of the potential effect of drilled but uncompleted wells.

Rail Crude Oil Traffic Fell 16.8% in 2015

February 26, 2016

Crude oil traffic on U.S. railroads fell 16.8 percent in 2015, reflecting a slowing of domestic oil production.

The Association of American Railroads said that U.S. railroads moved 410,249 carloads of crude oil last year, which was down by 82,897 carloads from the 2014 figure.

AARIn 2015, crude oil accounted for 1.4 percent of total U.S. carloads, a slight drop from 1.6 percent in 2014.

There was good news, though, for U.S. railroads last week as intermodal traffic posted an 18.2 percent gain for the week ending Feb. 20 compared with the same week in 2014.

Carload traffic volumes, however, were down 5.7 percent with railroads carrying 244,747 carloads during the week.

Five of the 10 carload commodity groups that AAR tracks saw increases. They included motor vehicles and parts, up 30.7 percent; miscellaneous carloads, up 22.5 percent; and nonmetallic minerals, up 6.4 percent.

Commodity groups that posted decreases during the week included petroleum and petroleum products, down 22.1 percent; coal, down 20.2 percent; and farm products (excluding grain) and food, down 5.7 percent.

For the first seven weeks of 2016, U.S. railroads have posted cumulative volume of 1,698,803 carloads, down 14.3 percent from the same point last year; and 1,815,728 intermodal units, up 7.3 percent from last year. The total combined U.S. traffic for the seven-week period was 3,514,531 carloads and intermodal units, down 4.4 percent compared the same period in 2015.

Hanging Out with NS in Bucyrus

February 13, 2016
A pair of bright red Canadian Pacific units lend some to an otherwise black crude oil train rolling eastbound through Bucyrus.

A pair of bright red Canadian Pacific units lend some to an otherwise black crude oil train rolling eastbound through Bucyrus.

In an earlier post, I described how I spent a day in Bucyrus last fall searching for the ultimate shot that would combine the former Toledo & Ohio Central depot with a train on the Sandusky District of Norfolk Southern.

That quest remains a work in progress, but the station that once served New York Central System passenger trains was not the only object of my photograph efforts.

I caught a crude oil train on the Fort Wayne Line and a move going from the Sandusky District to the Fort Wayne Line.

The latter caught me by surprised because I wasn’t sure if anything comes up from Columbus anymore and heads toward Pittsburgh.

NS is not the only user of the Fort Wayne Line. The Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern also uses the route to interchange with CSX at Crestline.

Or so I was told a few years ago. The Wheeling & Lake Erie even has trackage rights over the Fort Wayne Line through Bucyrus.

But I didn’t see anything from those two regional railroads and, frankly, I was not expecting it.

Bucyrus is about as good a place as any to catcher NS heritage locomotives, but none were in the region on the day that I visited.

The most colorful locomotives I saw were the Canadian Pacific units leading an eastbound crude oil train through town on the Fort Wayne Line.

Like any other hotspot, Bucyrus can have it lulls and one of those broke out around midday.

It did not last too long, though.

More trains were on their way, but I had to leave about mid-afternoon. I’ll have to add making a return trip here to my list of things to do in 2016.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

A container train crosses the Fort Wayne line en route to Columbus. Have stack trains ever operated on the Fort Wayne Line?

A container train crosses the Fort Wayne line en route to Columbus. Have stack trains ever operated on the Fort Wayne Line?

Back in the day, the Toledo & Ohio Central crossed the bridge in the foreground over the Lincoln Highway and then crossed the Pennsylvania Railroad branch from Columbus to Sandusky. The T&OC is gone, but a small portion of it still exists on the northwest side of town to serve some industries.

Back in the day, the Toledo & Ohio Central crossed the bridge in the foreground over the Lincoln Highway and then crossed the Pennsylvania Railroad branch from Columbus to Sandusky. The T&OC is gone, but a small portion of it still exists on the northwest side of town to serve some industries.

After crossing the Fort Wayne Line, eastbound trains on the Sandusky continue around a curve.

After crossing the Fort Wayne Line, eastbound trains on the Sandusky continue around a curve.

A manifest freight up from Columbus on the Sandusky District make the turn to go east on the Fort Wayne Line.

A manifest freight up from Columbus on the Sandusky District make the turn to go east on the Fort Wayne Line.

Once the route of the Broadway Limited, the Fort Wayne Line is now the home of eastbound crude oil trains from the west.

Once the route of the Broadway Limited, the Fort Wayne Line is now the home of eastbound crude oil trains from the west.

Pa. Crude Oil Report has 27 Suggestions

August 18, 2015

A report written for the state of Pennsylvania pertaining to crude oil by rail safety has 27 recommendations, including implementing standards for infrastructure and equipment testing, especially for track and wheel defects, and a 35 mph speed limit through urban areas.

The recommendations also call for increased inspections and protocols for coordination between state and federal agencies.

Titled “Assessment of Crude by Rail Safety Issues in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” the report was prepared by Allan Zarembski,  who was hired by the state in late April.

“Every week, roughly 60 to 70 trains carrying crude oil travel through Pennsylvania destined for Philadelphia or another East Coast refinery, and I have expressed grave concern regarding the transportation of this oil and have taken several steps to prevent potential oil train derailments,” said Gov. Tom Wolf. “Protecting Pennsylvanians is my top priority and Dr. Zarembski’s report is important in helping my administration take the necessary steps. I will also continue to work with CSX and Norfolk Southern, both of which have demonstrated concern for rail safety and an interest in working with my administration.”

The recommendations are divided into primary and secondary categories.

Primary categories are expected to have direct safety results and can be implemented by the railroads directly working with the state or by the state itself.

Secondary categories include actions that are more difficult to implement or which may require action by a party other than the railroad or the state.

In May, Wolf sent a letter to CSX and NS urging them to adopt improved safety initiatives for all trains with crude-by-rail cars operating in Pennsylvania and to fully and expeditiously comply with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s announced Final Rule.

To read the full report, go to

Increasing Pipeline Capacity Could Mean Bakken Crude Oil Trains Will be Gone After 2017

August 5, 2015

Tank car trains carrying crude oil through Northeast Ohio may seem ubiquitous today, but they might be gone by 2017 if an analysis conducted by a Houston-based consulting firm comes true.

RBN Energy LLC made the prediction on its blog and it was picked up by Railway Age.

Increasing pipeline capacity combined with falling crude oil prices has depressed the level of Bakken crude oil being shipped by rail.

The falling prices have reduced the price differences between international and domestic sources of crude oil.

“Since 2012 a combination of rail and pipeline has given Bakken producers ample crude takeaway capacity but pipelines alone have not had sufficient capacity on their own,” said RBN’s Rusty Braziel in an interview with Railway Age. “However, with production slowing down, pipeline capacity is catching up and by 2017 there should be enough pipelines to carry all North Dakota’s crude to market.”

But Sandy Fielden, the author of the blog post, said the situation is more complicated than that.

“ . . . just because pipeline capacity is available doesn’t necessarily mean producers will prefer to use that capacity instead of rail,” Fielden wrote. “In the long run – assuming that they do not have other overriding obligations – shippers will look to their crude netbacks at the wellhead to decide where and how to send their crude to market. That means they should favor market locations where the combination of crude sales price less transport is the highest – regardless of transport mode.”

Fielden, who is RBN’s director of energy analytics, wrote that wide price differences between North Dakota Baaken crude oil and crude from overseas made rail the ideal option for producers sending it to the East or West Coast because there was no pipeline capacity in those regions.

“As soon as price differentials—especially between domestic benchmark West Texas Intermediate and international benchmark Brent—narrowed, then barrels shifted back to pipelines to take advantage of their cheaper tariff rates,” Fielden wrote. “Yet significant crude volumes continued to be transported to market from North Dakota by rail because pipeline capacity could not handle the demand.”

But more pipelines have been built or are being planned in North Dakota that would provide space for all the barrels currently traveling to market from North Dakota by rail.

Fielden’s analysis found that new pipeline projects due to go into service during 2016 and 2017 will expand Bakken takeaway pipeline capacity by 680,000 barrels per day.

Another 100,000 barrels per day of pipeline capacity would come online in 2019 if the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline is completed, with 220,000 barrels per day more in 2020 if the TransCanada Energy East project is built.