Canada's first oil-sands unit train to run in November

(Reuters – October 3, 2013) Canada's first oil-sands unit train to run in November (By: Nia Williams)

CALGARY, Alberta, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Western Canada's first crude-by-rail unit train terminal is set to start transporting 50,000 barrels per day of oil sands crude to the U.S. market next month, the CEO of operating company Canexus said.

(read the full article at


The unit trains at Bruderheim will use heated and coiled rail cars even for dilbit to prevent it becoming more viscous in bitterly cold Canadian winter temperatures.

Heated and coiled cars are essential for transporting raw bitumen, which Kubera said the terminal could eventually start shipping depending on demand, in a move that should boost profits for producers.

"We think in the long term that is the one model that will allow crude by rail to compete with pipelines. Raw bitumen or near-raw bitumen is the better option for crude by rail," he said.

Pipelines are currently seen as the cheapest method of transporting crude oil but Canadian producers have to dilute their tar-like bitumen with around 30 percent condensate in each barrel - which is more expensive than crude - to allow it to flow through pipes.

Recent research by Sandy Fielden, analyst at consultants RBN Energy, suggested moving raw bitumen on unit trains from Alberta to the Gulf Coast offers a greater netback, $65 per barrel, compared with $51.27 per barrel for shipping dilbit via pipeline.

At the moment, however, the heating equipment needed to load and unload raw bitumen from unit trains is absent from terminals and refineries across North America.

"Our analysis indicates that rail can beat the pipelines but that the infrastructure to achieve the necessary economies of scale are not yet in place," Fielden wrote in a note.