The amount of crude oil delivered by rail and truck to U.S. refineries is soaring, climbing 62.6 percent in 2012 thanks to rising shale oil production output.
The two transportation modes delivered 165.5 million barrels of oil to refineries last year, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
That’s still only about 3 percent of the 5.58 billion barrels of crude delivered to refineries by all modes, including pipeline, which handled 55.4 percent of the total.
Oil tankers accounted for about 37.5 percent of deliveries, and barges handled 4.2 percent, according to data from the EIA’s July 17 refinery capacity report.
The 62.6 percent increase in truck and rail crude volume in thousands of barrels in 2012 built on a 32.9 percent increase in 2011 and a 6.4 percent increase in 2010.
In comparison, pipeline crude oil deliveries to refineries rose 6.5 percent in 2012 and 3.2 percent in 2011, accounting for 3.1 billion barrels of oil last year.
The surge in rail and trucking crude oil volume comes from the shale oil boom, which is turning states such as North Dakota into big crude oil producers.
Many shale oil regions don’t have access to pipelines or sufficient capacity to handle their growing output, and trucks and trains are quickly filling that gap.
The Gulf Coast region accounted for the biggest increase in U.S. refinery receipts by truck, rail and barge, the EIA said, handling oil from the Eagle Ford Shale region.
The rapid increase in the transportation of crude oil by rail and truck in particular is feeding debate over how to transport oil needed by U.S. refineries safely.
The deadly derailment of an oil tank car train in Quebec July 6 heightened scrutiny of the oil supply chain and the increased profile of truck and rail oil transport.
The combined volume handled by truck, rail and barge rose 57 percent year-over-year, and it’s likely many truck and barge deliveries also involved a rail leg.
“The increase in barge receipts may partially be explained by crude oil being transferred to barges from rail cars for the final leg of some journeys,” the EIA said.