Editor’s note. The report referenced below is a living document, and Sightline researchers update it regularly to reflect new developments. For the most recent facts and figures, please see the report, The Northwest’s Pipeline on Rails.


Sightline is releasing a new report: The Northwest’s Pipeline on Rails. It’s the first comprehensive look at the nearly one dozen plans that have emerged since 2012 to ship crude oil by train to Northwest refineries and port terminals.

oil_rail_map_021814--150ppiMoving large quantities of oil by rail would be a major change for the Northwest’s energy economy, but so far the proposals have largely escaped notice.

Why does it matter? Because:

  • In Oregon and Washington, 10 refineries and port terminals are planning, building, or already operating oil-by-rail shipments.
  • If all of the projects were built and operated at full capacity, they would put an estimated 22 mile-long trains per day on the Northwest’s railway system. Many worry about the risk of oil spills from thousands of loaded oil trains that may soon traverse the region each year.
  • Taken together, the oil-by-rail projects planned for the Northwest would be capable of delivering enough fuel to exceed the region’s oil refining capacity. Ironically, two of the facilities that would handle oil by rail were originally built to supply renewable fuels.Oil_by_rail_021614--150ppi
  • The projects are designed to transport fuel from the Bakken oil formation in North Dakota, but the infrastructure could also be used to export Canadian tar sands oil. In fact, if all of the oil-by-rail projects were built, they would be capable of moving nearly 800,000 barrels per day—that’s more oil capacity than either of the controversial pipelines planned in British Columbia.
  • On Puget Sound, three of the region’s five refineries already receive oil-by-rail shipments and the other two are planning new facilities. Three proposals for Grays Harbor would move oil along the Washington coast. And on the Columbia River, one port terminal is already receiving oil-by-rail shipments, while officials at Vancouver are planning by far the region’s largest facility.

Read the full report here: The Northwest’s Pipeline on Rails, and see the video below summarizing the report’s findings.

June 24, 2013