As Canada continues to increase its oil production—estimating 300,000 barrels-per-day by 2015—one of its major challenges has been finding an efficient way to transport and export said oil to new markets. Several pipeline projects have been proposed by a variety of corporations, but have not seen major progress due to safety concerns and environmental protests. In order to facilitate oil exports in the meantime, rail routes have been increasingly employed across the country.
However, these environmental and safety concerns are only highlighted during disasters such as the train derailment that occurred in the Saskatchewan region. A Canadian Pacific Rail freight train jumped the tracks while traveling through an area near the village of Jansen, just southeast of Saskatoon.
Canadian Pacific Rail spokesman, Ed Greenberg, stated that 575 oil barrels struck the ground, spilling more than 91,000 litres of oil. Five train cars in all derailed, but apparently only one ended up leaking any contents.
The leak was quickly contained, but this recent derailment has only reignited the debate over Canada’s efforts to bring its oil to foreign markets. CP Rail has ramped up crude oil shipments as oil-sand production continues to increase—and they’re simply struggling to maintain capacity capabilities. Currently, CP Rail moves more than 30,000 carloads of crude oil and aims to double this within the year.
Numerous rail oil spills have occurred since the beginning of 2013, including a spill in April that involved at least 20 freight cars and 63,000 liters of spilled oil. In March, another CP Rail train derailed in Minnesota, leaking over 76,000 liters of oil.
Canada has become increasingly divided over such crude oil transportation methods. Rail companies, seeing an enormous growth opportunity, are obviously claiming they remain the superior choice to pipelines, while Prime Minister Stephen Harper continues to try and raise national and international support for the formerly denied Keystone XL pipeline.
Thomas O’Malley, a chairman and spokesman for PBF Energy, Inc.—a company responsible for transporting 40,000 barrels of oil a day along its rails—had this to say about the debate: “Railroads and pipelines are both safe, reliable modes of transport. We are confident that the railroads that haul our crude oil and products in both Canada and the United States are fully committed to safe, reliable operations.”
Michael Bourque, president of the Railway Association of Canada, claimed that crude-carrying trains are 2.7 times more energy-efficient than pipelines.