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Monday, June 5, 2023
June 5, 2023

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Crude oil in state tops 1 million barrels per week

State says volumes on oil trains have risen since 2012


SPOKANE — Railroads ship more than 1 million barrels of crude oil across Washington each week, according to new information from the state.

Most of the oil trains travel through Spokane, entering the state from Idaho and transporting light crude from North Dakota to Washington ports and refineries. About 6 percent of the crude oil originates in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and some of those shipments come south through Bellingham.

Railroads shipped nearly 56 million barrels of crude oil across Washington in 82,000 rail cars, according to information from October 2016 through September of this year. That represents about 2.5 trillion gallons of oil.

Last year, the state began requiring facilities that receive crude oil by rail to notify the state officials in advance of shipments. The information is shared with emergency managers along the rail route. The Department of Ecology later publishes quarterly reports summarizing the volumes.

Railroads began shipping crude oil through Washington in 2012, and volumes have increased over time, according to the state.

The proposed $210 million Vancouver Energy Terminal on the Columbia River would have the capacity to receive 360,000 barrels of crude oil daily. However, the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council recently recommended that Gov. Jay Inslee deny a permit for the project. Panel members said the terminal increased the risk of oil spills, train accidents and emergency response times because of road traffic.

Oil train safety has been in the national spotlight following accidents such as the fiery derailment in 2013 that killed 47 people in Lac Megantic, Quebec, and the 2016 derailment of a Union-Pacific train that spilled 42,000 gallons of oil near Mosier, Ore.

Washington’s reporting rule also applies to pipelines, which must report information about crude oil volumes twice per year.