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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Crude carloads, weekly traffic figures continue to climb for U.S. railroads


The amount of crude oil and refined petroleum products moved by U.S. railroads during 2014's first seven months increased 9 percent compared with the same 2013 period, according to a "Today in Energy" newsletter issued yesterday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Association of American Railroads (AAR) data shows weekly carloads of oil and petroleum products averaged about 16,000 in July, a reflection of rising U.S. crude oil production that in June reached an estimated 8.5 million barrels per day for the first time since July 1986, EIA officials said in the newsletter. In North Dakota, between 60 percent and 70 percent of the more than 1 million barrels per day of oil produced in the state are transported to refineries by rail.

"The AAR estimates that more than half of the nearly 460,000 carloads tracked in its petroleum and petroleum products category from January through July consisted of crude oil, up from around 3 percent in 2009," EIA officials said. "With the average rail tank car holding around 700 barrels of crude oil, about 759,000 barrels of crude oil per day were moved by rail during the first seven months of 2014, equal to 8 percent of U.S. oil production."

The AAR's traffic data for the week ending Aug. 23 also shows a boost in U.S. railroad's crude carloads. Petroleum and petroleum products traffic jumped 28.4 percent compared with the same week in 2013, helping the roads increase weekly carloads 3 percent to 300,505 units. Overall, eight of 10 carload commodity groups posted gains, including grain at 17.6 percent and nonmetallic minerals at 10.5 percent, while coal volume fell 3.9 percent and chemicals traffic dipped 0.1 percent.

Also during the week ending Aug. 23, U.S. roads' intermodal volume increased 3.4 percent to 265,761 units and total carloads rose 3.2 percent to 566,266 units.

For the week, Canadian railroads reported 78,883 carloads, down 0.4 percent, and 61,303 intermodal units, up 8.7 percent year over year. Mexican railroads’ weekly carloads declined 4.9 percent to 15,544 units, but their intermodal volume increased 1.7 percent to 11,549 units.

Through 2014’s first 34 weeks, 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads handled 13,042,477 carloads, up 3.1 percent, and 11,006,631 containers and trailers, up 5.8 percent compared with the same 2013 period.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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