Railway Expands Oil Capacity in Williston Basin

By Beacon Staff

HELENA — BNSF Railway Co. said it has ramped up its operations to meet the anticipated demands of the Bakken oil boom by increasing its shipping capacity, hiring 560 workers in Montana and North Dakota and investing $197 million in projects in those states.

The railroad said it can now ship up to 1 million barrels of oil daily from western North Dakota and eastern Montana, which is up from the current daily average of 243,500 barrels. Oil from the Bakken patch is shipped to the East, West and Gulf coasts, the Midwest and to Canada, BNSF spokeswoman Krista York-Woolley said Wednesday.

Dave Garin, BNSF group vice president for industrial products, said the rail company increased annual shipments of Bakken crude from 1.3 million barrels in fiscal year 2008 to 88.9 million barrels in fiscal year 2012.

“We see this trend continuing and we are committed to serving this growing market now and in the future,” he said.

BNSF has increased the size of some trains from 100 to 104 cars and up to 118 cars. Railway officials also are identifying and developing the most efficient routes, the company said.

The 560 employees have been hired to fill existing and newly created positions in North Dakota and Montana. The employees include crews to help deliver the inbound freight that supports drilling efforts and the outbound crude to markets throughout the U.S.

The $197 million is for North Dakota and Montana projects such as track surfacing and raising, replacing rail and rail ties, upgrading signals and buying equipment, the company said.

U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., told the Billings Gazette the railroad’s decision supports the need for the Keystone XL pipeline. The Alberta-to-Gulf-Coast pipeline, proposed by TransCanada Corp., also would ship oil from the Bakken and cross hundreds of miles in eastern Montana.

“As we look for every way to support the opportunities presented by the Bakken energy boom, I’m pleased to see BNSF respond to the need for more capacity to support our homegrown energy,” Baucus said. “The news is further evidence that we cannot afford to continue to delay the Keystone pipeline.”