Economy

BNSF official: Keystone pipeline won’t dent crude by rail

BNSF crude oil trains meet at Galesburg, Ill., on Aug. 31, 2014.
BNSF crude oil trains meet at Galesburg, Ill., on Aug. 31, 2014. McClatchy

One of the top executives at the nation’s leading hauler of crude oil in trains said Friday that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline wouldn’t take away any of his company’s business.

Matt Rose, the executive chairman of BNSF Railway, told Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo that the controversial pipeline project would move primarily heavy crude oil from western Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

BNSF dominates the movement of light, sweet crude from North Dakota’s Bakken region to east and west coast markets not served by pipelines. Bakken has enabled North Dakota to become the No. 2 petroleum producer behind Texas, and most of it moves by train.

“Pipelines are not going to be able to handle the entire amount of that,” Rose said.

Rose’s railroad actually does business with pipeline companies such as Enbridge and Kinder Morgan. These companies build and operate many of the loading and unloading terminals for crude oil trains.

Republicans in Congress continue to criticize President Barack Obama for delaying a decision on whether to build the 1,200-mile northern leg of Keystone XL, which has been planned for several years. If built, it would stretch from Alberta to Kansas.

The pipeline’s southern leg, from Cushing, Okla., to the Texas Gulf Coast, went into operation in January.

The entire pipeline would carry about 830,000 barrels a day, mostly Alberta tar sands.

Rose said his railroad moves 800,000 of the 1 million barrels a day moving by rail in the U.S., and that the completion of the pipeline would do little more than slow the growth.

Yet the pipeline’s leading supporters in Congress seldom mention the role of railroads in moving the country’s biggest energy boom in decades.

At a hearing earlier this month in the House of Representatives Science, Space & Technology Committee, Republican lawmakers claimed that building the Keystone pipeline would shift crude oil away from trains. Lawmakers in both parties also demanded that the federal regulators present say whether pipelines are safer than railroads.

Recent derailments, including a deadly accident in Quebec last year, have focused the attention of the industry and its and regulators on improving the safety of crude oil trains, including changes to railroad operating practices and more robust construction standards for tank cars.

The American Petroleum Institute has said that pipelines and railroads have comparable safety records and does not favor one mode over the other.

In the Fox Business interview, Rose said there’d be plenty of oil business to go around.

“There’s going to be all modes of transportation needed to fulfill our opportunity of energy independence,” he said.

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