Market Snapshot: Canadian Crude-by-Rail Exports Rebound in Q3 2015

Release date: 2015-11-25

In the second quarter (Q2) of 2015, Canadian crude-by-rail export volumes decreased by 30 per cent from the previous quarter to an estimated 83 605 barrels per day (bbl/d). A narrow differential between light and heavy crude oil prices made crude-by-rail exports less attractive and contributed to the decline in Q2 2015. During Q3, the price differential widened, making rail movements more economic compared to pipelines, creating an uptick in Canadian crude-by-rail exports. Canadian crude-by-rail export volumes rebounded to over 116 000 bbl/d in Q3, more than a 38 per cent increase from the previous quarter.

The chart below illustrates Canadian crude-by-rail export volumes from 2012 to 2015. From 2013 until Q1 2015, Canadian crude-by-rail exports averaged more than 100 000 bbl/d, peaking in Q3 2014 at an average of 166 000 bbl/d. Note that despite the overall growth of crude-by-rail exports, they only constituted 3.5 per cent of total Canadian crude oil exports over the last three years.

Figure Source and Data

Source: NEB

Description: The above bar chart depicts the volumes of Canadian crude oil exports that cross the Canada-U.S. border via rail. The volumes are shown in barrels per day, between 2012 and the third quarter of 2015. Average exports increased from less than 20 000 bbl/d at the beginning of 2012 to a record 166 000 bbl/d in the third quarter of 2014. Exports subsequently fell to 83 605 bbl/d in the second quarter of 2015 but rebounded to more than 116 000 bbl/d in the third quarter of 2015.

To date approximately 90 per cent of Canadian crude-by-rail exports were destined for the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts. In the first two quarters of 2015, monthly crude-by-rail export volumes to the U.S. Gulf Coast averaged 46 500 bbl/d and then increased by more than 20 000 bbl/d in Q3 2015, to nearly 67 500 bbl/d.

Quarterly data on crude oil exports by rail are available on the NEB website, as well as Canadian crude oil exports by type and destination.

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