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Tar Sands Producers Lay Tracks to Sidestep Keystone XL

In 'just a few weeks' Canadian firms will be shipping via rail to Mississippi

Common Dreams staff

Tar sands producers are laying tracks to sidestep Keystone XL. (Photo by irispectrum via Flickr)

As activists wait anxiously to see if Obama will rectify the Keystone XL pipeline that was postponed in 2011, at least wiley one Canadian tar sands producer is taking steps towards an alternate path to the Gulf.

The Canadian Herald is reporting that, in a few short weeks, Southern Pacific Resources is set to open a dedicated rail terminal "just south of Fort McMurray, [Alberta] and will ship its product in leased tanker cars via CN Rail all the way to Natchez, Miss." The piece continues:

From there, it's just a short barge ride down the Mississippi River to one of the eight refineries in Louisiana, where the crude will fetch $20 to $30 a barrel more than it could at the congested terminal hub in Cushing, Okla.

While Canadian and U.S. railways are scrambling to meet demand, opening small terminals close to production in locations such as the Bakken area of southern Saskatchewan and North Dakota, the Athabasca oilsands have not been part of the rush. Until now.

Though Southern Pacific estimates it will cost $31 to ship via rail compared with $8 for pipeline shipping, unlike pipelines there are no required public hearings and no environmental protests.

As Brian Merchant writes on Treehugger, "this is looking like an increasingly viable option for oil companies with a glut of supply on their hands, and who hope to sidestep the pipeline process."

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