Inside Logistics

Comparable safety records for railways and pipelines moving crude oil

Railway Association of Canada study finds both modes equally safe


December 17, 2015
by MM&D Online Staff

OTTAWA, Ontario—Railways and pipelines are equally safe means of transporting crude oil, according to a report comparing safety data for each mode. The report – Canadian Crude Oil Transportation: Comparing the Safety of Pipelines and Railways – was published by consultant group Oliver Wyman last month, and was commissioned by the Railway Association of Canada (RAC).

The report found that between 2012 and 2014, Canadian pipelines and Class I railways together transported 252.7 billion gallons of crude oil, and 99.9997 per cent of that was delivered safely without spillage.

It also assessed the movement of dangerous goods by rail from 2004 to 2014, and concluded that railways and pipelines have equally strong safety records.

“As Canada’s crude oil production grows, railways will continue to be a safe, complementary option to pipelines,” said RAC president and CEO, Michael Bourque. “Our goal is obviously not to replace pipelines as a way to move energy products, but rather, to work collaboratively and be a complement to move these essential goods without incident.”

As new sources of Canadian oil production became available in 2012, the amount of crude transported by rail began to grow, out of a need to connect oil fields with refineries in regions where pipelines were either not present or lacked sufficient capacity.

Under the common carrier obligation of the Canada Transportation Act, railways in Canada are required by law to move dangerous goods, including crude oil.