Market Snapshot: Crude exports by rail reach a 3 year high

Release date: 2018-06-13

In March of 2018, Canadian oil volumes exported by rail reached a 3 year high of over 170 thousand barrels per day (Mb/d). The differential between light and heavy crude oil benchmark prices also reached a 3 year high in March 2018, averaging $23 per barrel. Crude-by-rail exports were more economic because the relatively high cost of rail transportation was offset by the lower cost paid for the Canadian oil by refiners in the United States (U.S.). Additionally, major crude oil export pipelines have been operating at, or near, capacity over this period.

Source and Description

Source: NEB

Description: This bar graph shows exports of crude oil by rail in thousand barrels per day from January 2015 until March 2018. Exports by rail averaged 134.62 Mb/d in January 2015, reached a low of 43.20 Mb/d in in June 2016, and reached a high of 170.62 Mb/d in March 2018.

In the first quarter of 2018, approximately 75% of Canadian crude-by-rail exports were destined for the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts, with the remainder going elsewhere in the U.S, such as the West Coast and Rocky Mountain regions. The Gulf Coast is the largest refining region in the U.S. and has a large capacity to process Canadian heavy crude oil. Refineries in the U.S. East Coast have minimal pipeline access, and therefore bring in crude oil from western Canada by rail (in addition to imports from eastern Canada via marine tanker).

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