Transporting crude oil and other liquid hydrocarbons such as gasoline and diesel by rail is increasing across Canada - up by 60 per cent between February 2012 and February 2013 alone.
According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, more than 200,000 barrels per day of crude oil is transported by rail in Canada today, which could grow to about 720,000 barrels per day by 2016.
Given this growth and to avoid another tragedy like Lac-Megantic, the businesses that produce Canada's crude oil and fuels, and the railways that transport them are working to together on new measures to enhance the safety of the rail transport of dangerous goods.
As Canada's federal government determines its response to recommendations made by the Transportation Safety Board following its incident investigation, discussion and collaboration between the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Railway Association of Canada and the Canadian Fuels Association has progressed, with the industries recently reaching an agreement in principle for voluntary mutual emergency assistance measures to improve preparedness and response capabilities for rail transportation emergencies involving liquid hydrocarbons.
For example, the agreement will streamline access to resources, such as equipment, supplies and expertise to first responders, and incident commanders in the event of an emergency, such as fires or spills.
Our industries will also design and implement a broader emergency preparedness and response coalition, which would create better national response capability through a single entity accessible by companies, first responders and government agencies in the event of an incident involving flammable liquid hydrocarbons on rail.
Rail has always been a transportation option for fuels, such as diesel and gasoline, especially to markets far from refineries and where pipeline transport is not an option. The increase in crude transport by rail is the result of a significant increase in Canadian crude oil production, the unique capabilities of rail and current pipeline capacity constraints.
Rail safety is comprised of important operational, process and emergency response components - and a world-class system delivers on each to protect Canadians and facilitate the flow of goods across Canada and the entire continent.
Over the past months, rail companies have redoubled their safety efforts and focus on operational safety, and shippers are likewise working to improve testing and classification processes for the various hazardous materials we need carried.
Addressing the safety dimensions around the rail transportation of crude oil and other fuels is complex, involving many companies, governments and communities. This unprecedented collaboration between our industries on safety underscores the importance we place on taking and improving rail safety. Rail is today a safe mode of transport and these measures will make it even safer.
As government finalizes new rail rules, effectiveness of regulations will mean focusing on practical measures that yield tangible safety improvements the public expects.