Oil-by-rail proposal being eyed
OTTAWA—CN Rail, at the urging of Chinese-owned Nexen Inc., is considering shipping Alberta bitumen to Prince Rupert, B.C. by rail in quantities matching the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline, documents show.
Internal memos obtained by Greenpeace under the Access to Information Act show the rail carrier raised the proposal back in March with Natural Resources Canada.
An attached CN presentation paper notes that “CN has ample capacity to run seven trains per day to match Gateway’s proposed capacity.”
CN is denying it has made a specific proposal for Prince Rupert, but said it will consider any such project as it comes up.
Greenpeace provided the documents to The Canadian Press.
The proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, which would carry crude oil to Kitimat, B.C., has met fierce opposition from First Nations and environmentalists.
Greenpeace researcher Keith Stewart said the CN rail pitch has the appearance of a “Plan B” in case Northern Gateway is blocked, but that it raises “the same or greater risks.”
The horrific Lac-Megantic, Que. disaster in July, which claimed 47 lives when a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded, has focused intense scrutiny on the burgeoning oil-by-rail industry.
A spokesman for CN Rail told The Canadian Press in an e-mail that “no specific crude-by-rail project to Prince Rupert [was] discussed” at the March meeting with Natural Resources Canada.
The company “does not disclose publicly its commercial discussions with customers,” Mark Hallman said in the e-mail.
“CN will continue to explore new opportunities to move crude oil safely and efficiently to markets,” he wrote.
“The company will consider concrete crude-by-rail proposals, including any specific project to move crude to Prince Rupert,” Hallman said.
“However, there is no infrastructure in place at Prince Rupert to transfer crude oil from train tank cars to vessels.”