Canadian crude-by-rail exports drop by half in April as fuel demand plunged

CALGARY — Canadian exports of crude oil by rail dropped by more than half in April compared to March as North American fuel demand plunged due to measures taken to control the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canada Energy Regulator says rail shipments of oil in April fell to 156,000 barrels per day, down from 351,000 bpd in March and 240,000 bpd in the same month of 2019.

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Shipments reached a record high of 412,000 bpd in February.

Rail transportation of crude oil is considered to be more expensive than shipping by pipeline and shippers tend to use it only when pipelines are full or if the destination market offers much higher prices than can be achieved in Canada.

Earlier this week, pipeline company Enbridge Inc. confirmed 800 employees have taken voluntary buyouts, allowing it to avoid layoffs as it cuts costs to counter impacts from COVID-19 and lower global oil prices.

It reported last month that its Mainline oil export pipeline system, which is typically oversubscribed by shippers, transported 400,000 fewer barrels of oil per day in April than its average of 2.84 million bpd in the first quarter.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 19, 2020.

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