The numbers of oil tanker rail cars being shipped in 2019 and projected for 2020 and beyond are truly staggering. That got us to thinking about how long a train would they make and the results were quite interesting.
If all the rail cars carrying crude oil just in 2019, largely from Western Canada, were connected in a single train they would be over 1400 kilometers. That is 50% longer than the distance from Calgary to Vancouver:
- a crude oil rail tanker is 6.1 meters in length
- the distance from Calgary to Vancouver is 972 kilometers
- the distance from Edmonton to Vancouver is 1160 kilometers
- and, yes, that is road / rail distance, not a straight line (aka. ‘as the crow flies’)
- CP Rail should end the year with nearly 100,000 rail cars of crude in 2019
- CN Rail announced they expect to ship 140,000 rail cars of crude in 2019
So in just a year and a half these two rail companies alone could have the equivalent of TWO very large pipelines from Alberta to Vancouver. As you can see in the chart below, these numbers are only increasing.
Certainly not all rail oil tanker cars in Canada are going from Alberta to Vancouver. However, if connect oil tanker trains effectively makes the distance from Edmonton to Vancouver in one year, the next year that same distance could account for all of the oil from Edmonton to the US border and the next year could account for all oil from Alberta to Manitoba. Within 3 years Canada could replace the vast majority of its risky rail transport, with clean, safe buried pipelines.
Oil is a global COMMODITY. That means the product is only produced at the level of demand and moves easily from country to country (via tankers, pipelines, trucks, rails…). Every barrel of oil produced responsibly in Alberta, BC or Saskatchewan REPLACES a barrel produced irresponsibly in Russia, Venezuela, or Nigeria.
No-one wants more environmental damage so it just makes sense to produce more in Canada and transport to other countries responsibly using a method that is about 4 times safer (and certainly quieter, prettier, and cheaper) than rail, buried pipelines.