Port of Albany, Crude Oil and Rail Mix Very Well

With a Canadian Pacific railroad official predicting a surge in shipments of tar sands crude to Eastern outlets, the Port of Albany stands poised to handle much of that growth simply because of its location.

This week, Keith Creel, CP’s chief operating officer, told The Wall Street Journal that increased transport of tar sands crude oil from Alberta would in coming years account for about 60 percent of the railroad’s oil revenue.

His announcement also came as European Union regulators announced that they will not assign carbon-intensity penalties to tar sands crude, even though the extraction methods required to produce tar sand oil is more carbon intensive.

That could make shipping tar sands crudes from the Eastern seaboard to Europe more lucrative and increase the importance of Albany, which is the only ice-free port on the Eastern seaboard accessible to CP lines.


Albany Port Railroad
Albany Port Railroad


That revelation has prompted opponents concerned that the growth will bring a rise in potential safety and environmental hazards to ask the state Department of Environmental Conservation to revisit earlier approvals allowing up to 2.8 billion gallons of crude to flow annually through the port.

CP spokeswoman Breanne Feigel said, “Albany will remain an important end destination for shipments of crude on CP’s network during our anticipated period of growth. We are not currently in a position to speculate how much of this growth will be destined to Albany at this time; it is important to acknowledge that the safe movement of these goods remains a priority for CP.”

Feigel said that in New York state, CP has increased “inspections, patrols and testing of our infrastructure in this corridor, which includes daily visual and computerized track inspections through Albany and the Capital Region.” Trains are inspected upon departure and “several times while proceeding to its destination. And while the tank cars are shipper supplied, each one undergoes a mechanical inspection process before being moved by CP on our tracks,” she added.

Albany already has become a focal shipping point for another type of crude oil from the Bakken fields of North Dakota. Bakken crude is lighter and more flammable, and floats in water. Tar sands crude is less volatile, but heavier, and sinks to the bottom in water, which can make spills in water difficult to clean up.

CP’s rail line runs from western Canadian tar sands fields and east to Montreal. From there, the line runs south along the western shore of Lake Champlain, and then to Albany’s port, where crude oil can be loaded for placement on tankers or barges for shipment down the Hudson River to coastal refineries or oceangoing oil tankers.


Read more about crude, rail and the Port of Albany


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