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Crude by rail has exploded in the last three years – here’s a map that shows how much

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The following map shows just how many loading and unloading terminals have been constructed since 2010:

(For a larger, easier to read version, check out PDF page 17 – report page ES-11 here).

Loading facilities (red dots) are located throughout the major tight oil plays in North America, including the Bakken formation in North Dakota and the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB). Oil is transported in tanker cars to offloading terminals (blue dots) along the Gulf Coast and East Coast where it is then refined into products like gasoline and diesel fuel.

The map is part of the State Department’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (PDF) on the Keystone XL pipeline project and provides support for the agency’s determination that oil from Canadian oil sands will find their way to refiners and markets whether the pipeline is built or not.

Rail loading facilities in the WCSB are estimated by the State Department to have a capacity around 700,000 bpd, and expected to increase to 1.1 million bpd by the end of 2014. Currently, 180,000 bpd of heavy crude are transported from the WCSB across the US-Canada border, a volume that has grown drastically since 2010.

The northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline will have a capacity of 830,000 bpd if it is constructed.

Correction: an earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the WCSB as the Alberta Oil Sand play.

David Wogan About the Author: An engineer and policy researcher who writes about energy, technology, and policy - and everything in between. Based in Austin, Texas. Comments? Follow on Twitter @davidwogan.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. dreerr3 3:47 pm 02/12/2014

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  2. 2. Cahokia 12:31 am 02/13/2014

    It’s depressing that we’re transporting any commodity by rail a hundred years after this antiquated mode of transport gave us trench warfare in France.

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  3. 3. Roadkilt 1:28 am 02/13/2014

    Railways are laid in river valleys and town centers, both bad for derailments although human loss is less (town centers aside). Worse is double truck trailers, flying down our highways. When they go, people die. Unfortunately the answer is pipelines, built well. We eventually will get to our post carbon world, but not realistically for another twenty years at least.

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  4. 4. cookchh 8:25 am 02/13/2014

    dreer your comment is so non sequitur, i dont know where to start. you could make the same case for pipelines or vehicle transport, they have been around for nearly as long. Look at how pipelines affected the Kuwait war, and that was relatively recent. If there is a valuable resource people are going to fight over it no matter the way it is transported. Now shipping oil via airplane, that hasn’t been tried and can be made to not sound antequated, so it has to be a good idea!

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  5. 5. tuned 10:09 am 02/13/2014

    Make pollution to make stuff that makes more pollution. Geez.
    And they say solar is inefficient.
    I don’t think solar ever burned anybody to death either.
    Any deaths or diseases from breathing solar smog? Nope.

    Link to this
  6. 6. singing flea 2:48 pm 02/13/2014

    If Canada wants to sell their oil to the world market they should build their own pipeline on Canadian soil. American oil companies don’t need a piece of that pie. We have our own pie and we are already sick of pie.

    Link to this
  7. 7. singing flea 2:51 pm 02/13/2014

    Just looking at the maps above, it’s obvious that the American people really have no say in the matter anyway unless you think corporations are people too.

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