Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Disaster likely to hike costs of oil by rail

  • Print

CALGARY -- Credit rating agency Moody's says it expects the deadly train disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Que., to make shipping oil by rail more costly, putting pressure on both major railroads and oil producers.

"The Quebec derailment -- likely North America's worst rail accident since 1918 -- will inevitably lead to increased U.S. and Canadian government scrutiny and permitting delays, along with higher costs for shippers," Moody's said in a report Thursday, less than a week after an oil-laden train derailed and exploded, killing dozens and incinerating a large portion of the town.

Capital and operating costs for rail companies are expected to rise, as has been the case for past rail accidents and oil spills, Moody's said. However, it said U.S. railroads have enough liquidity to cope with any new costly regulations.

Crude producers in North Dakota's Bakken region -- the origin point of the derailed train -- are expected to take a hit.

About two-thirds of North Dakota's daily Bakken production -- at 727,000 barrels in April -- moves to market by rail in the absence of sufficient pipeline capacity.

Even though rail tolls are more expensive than those of pipelines, moving crude by train has some advantages, Moody's said. For instance, crude can move easily to coastal ports by rail, enabling it to be sold in lucrative overseas markets. Contracts to ship on rail also tend to be more flexible than on pipelines.

"But the accident threatens to delay the development of further rail routes, and will prompt a re-evaluation of pipeline transport as an alternative to rail," Moody's said.

"Today, refiners on the U.S. East and West Coasts buy Bakken and mid-continent crude at prices that satisfy both parties, but they rely on rail, since most major North American crude pipelines run north to south, not east or west."

Moody's also says the Lac-Mégantic disaster will put pressure on the Obama administration to approve TransCanada Corp.'s (TSX:TRP) Keystone XL pipeline, which has been stuck in regulatory limbo for years.

If approved, that project will connect oilsands crude -- and some Bakken production -- to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. With the holdup in building Keystone XL, more and more oil freight has been moving to that market by rail and even river barge.

TransCanada CEO Russ Girling told reporters earlier this week he fails to see any upside for Keystone XL as a result of the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, saying "there's no good news here for anybody."

The CEOs of two major oilsands companies said this week while pipeline transport is their preference, rail will continue to play a role.

"We know that the safest way of getting crude and petroleum products to market is by pipeline. The American safety statistics clearly, clearly demonstrate that," Suncor (TSX:SU) CEO Steve Williams told reporters at an energy conference on Wednesday.

Suncor, Canada's largest oilsands producer, moves very little of its crude by rail.

"In the long run, there will always be a mix of different transportation modes," he said.

Imperial Oil (TSX:IMO) CEO Rich Kruger said pipelines "provide the safest, most reliable, most cost-effective way to transport crude and petroleum products."


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 12, 2013 0

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Dustin Byfuglien reflects on season

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Local-(Standup photo)- Humming Around- A female ruby -throated hummingbird fly's through the bee bomb  flowers Friday at the Assiniboine Park English Garden- Nectar from flowers are their main source of food. Hummingbirds wings can beat as fast as 75x times second. Better get a glimpse of them soon the birds fly far south for the winter - from Mexico to South America- JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS- Sept 10, 2009
  • A golfer looks for his ball in a water trap at John Blumberg Golf Course Friday afternoon as geese and goslings run for safety- See Joe Bryksa’s 30 day goose challenge- Day 24– June 15, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think Manitoba needs stronger regulations for temporary workers?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google