Federal data agency tracks oil train movements

The federal government’s energy data agency has started releasing monthly data on crude oil shipments by rail.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA), which is part of the Energy Department but operates independently, announced the launch of the data Tuesday with January’s information and monthly totals going back to 2010.

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It’s part of the federal government’s response to the nearly exponential increase in shipments of oil by rail, which has accompanied a domestic oil boom.

“The new crude-by-rail data provides a clearer picture on a mode of oil transportation that has experienced rapid growth in recent years and is of great interest to policy makers, the public, and industry,” EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski said in a statement.

Sieminski said the EIA hopes the data “will provide key insights into oil-by-rail movements, including shipments to and from Canada.”

The data is limited in that it only tracks movements within and between the five regions into which the EIA divides the country, as well as movements between Canada and each region.

In the January report, the region that includes the Midwest and North Dakota’s Bakken formation was by far the largest shipper of crude by rail, at 732,000 barrels per day on average.

The region that covers the entire East Coast was the largest recipient, taking in 523,000 barrels a day.

The EIA culls information for the report from the Surface Transportation Board and various third-party sources, it said.

The reports will come out each month with the agency’s regular petroleum reports, which also include oil transportation data for pipelines, tankers and barges.