Crude by rail volumes fall as Calgary-based Imperial Oil cuts Alberta shipments

Crude oil, and other petroleum products, are transported in rail tanker cars on a Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) train near Olds, Alberta, Canada on Tues., Oct. 23, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Larry MacDougal

Crude-by-rail shipments from Western Canada fell in February to the lowest level since May of last year, according to Genscape.

The U.S. company, which monitors rail terminals handling about 80 per cent of typical volumes from Western Canada, reports average loadings last month were 144,000 barrels per day, about half of the 281,000 bpd it recorded in January.

READ MORE: Oil by rail shipments collapse amid Alberta government production cuts

The falloff came after Calgary-based Imperial Oil Ltd. vowed in late January to cut rail shipments to near zero because of market reaction to the Alberta government’s crude production curtailment program that began on Jan. 1.

The company said it moved about 168,000 bpd of oil by rail in December or nearly half of the 354,000 bpd Canadian total crude-by-rail exports counted by the National Energy Board.

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Spokeswoman Lisa Schmidt confirmed Tuesday that Imperial carried out the reduction in February but wouldn’t say whether shipping had resumed in March.

The company said it would cut back shipments because the curtailments had resulted in narrower differences between prices for crude sold in Alberta and in the U.S. and thus impaired the economic case for paying rail fees to win better prices on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

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