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Grain shippers wary as more oil moves to rail

Officials from both CN and CP Rail say increasing oil traffic will not hurt their grain service

Grain shippers worry oil cars like these will displace hopper cars, especially in light of a recent Alberta government announcement to buy oil cars to get more crude to market.

Western grain shippers are watching closely to ensure their rail service doesn’t decline as oil shipments increase.

Wade Sobkowich. photo: File

“We would be concerned if either railway were to reduce grain capacity in favour of crude oil,” Wade Sobkowich, executive director of the Western Grain Elevator Association said in an interview Dec. 5. “Regardless of what the needs are of other sectors, what Alberta is doing, and who owns the rail cars, grain shippers need the service and capacity that we need.”

Crude oil shipments by rail are increasing because there aren’t enough pipelines. Last month the Alberta government announced it will buy up to 7,000 oil cars and about 80 locomotives to pull them to help get a glut of Alberta oil to market.

However, officials from both railways say grain movement will not suffer because of oil.

“Let me start off by making it clear that we will not be moving more crude oil at the expense of other commodities such as grain,” CN spokesman Jonathan Abecassis wrote in an email Dec. 5.

“Only once the Alberta government shares a detailed plan as it pertains to CN, will we be in a position to comment on the specifics and on the feasibility.”

“CP is committed to delivering for the entire supply chain — from grain to domestic and international intermodal, to other bulk commodities, merchandise and automotive,” CP spokeswoman Salem Woodrow wrote Dec. 6.

“CP continues to add people and locomotives and has invested record amounts in capital to meet the needs of our customers, across all lines of business, and the broader economy.”

Despite reassurances Sobkowich remains wary.

“We’ve seen in the past where the railways took resources away from grain and used for fracking sand,” Sobkowich said. “This situation would be no different.”

For the full story see the Dec. 13 issue of the Manitoba Co-operator.

About the author


Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.



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