CN adding this year to rail-haul capacity for export coal

Canadian railroad company CN (TSX: CNR) (NYSE: CNI) said July 5 that, in part to add to its export coal-haul capacity, it plans to construct five extended sidings on its B.C. North Line in 2012.

This project is part of a multi-year capital program to expand freight train capacity to handle growing freight volumes along the railroad’s important Edmonton, Alta.-Prince Rupert, B.C., corridor. In 2011, more than half a million carloads/intermodal units moved over the B.C. North corridor. By 2015, CN traffic on this line could nearly double.

CN has extended or constructed 21 sidings to handle 12,000-foot trains between Edmonton and Prince Rupert since 2004. This is in addition to new signaling and train control, several tunnel and bridge clearances, yard expansions at Smithers and Terrace, B.C., and the installation of a longer siding at Swan Landing, Alta. CN’s investments since 2004 in capacity expansion along the Edmonton-Prince Rupert corridor will total more than C$150m by the end of this year, with further extended sidings expected to be built in future years.

CN Executive Vice President and COO Keith Creel said: “CN’s sizable investments in rail infrastructure in northern B.C. and western Alberta are helping us accommodate growing import-export traffic moving between the Port of Prince Rupert, the B.C. interior and major centres across CN’s network in Canada and the United States. The investments will also help us better move rising export coal volumes from existing and new mines in the region to Ridley Terminals at Prince Rupert, whose handling capacity is expected to double by the end of 2014 to 24 million tonnes.”

The longer sidings increase the fluidity of operations in this major CN freight corridor and allow the railroad to haul increased volumes in safer, more efficient trains equipped with distributed power (DP) technology. DP permits remote control of a locomotive or locomotives throughout a train from the lead control locomotive. DP provides faster, smoother train starts, improved braking and lower pulling forces at the head-end of a train, and improved safety.

Booming export coal market keys infrastructure development

A number of parties are positioning to add new rail-haul and export-terminal capacity on the Pacific Ocean coast of British Columbia to handle expected growth in demand for seaborne Canadian coal in the Pacific Rim market. U.S. coal producers are also currently using British Columbia terminal facilities to get their coal into that market as they wait for, or try to develop themselves, dedicated coal export facilities in Oregon and Washington.

Ridley Terminals recently went into the second year of its ongoing terminal expansion project. The first year included the installation of two dumper barrels in December 2011, which marked the first actualized capacity growth at the terminal since it was commissioned in 1983.

The second year will involve site civil works, upgrades of the existing stacker/reclaimers, delivery of a third stacker/reclaimer, installation of additional conveyance, and installation and upgrade of nearly 14 kilometers of rail infrastructure.

In 2013, construction will continue with the integration of new lands into the existing operation. In 2014, a new tandem rotary dumper and a new thaw shed will be added to the terminal’s operation, doubling total terminal capacity from the initial 12 million tonnes per year. The Ridley Terminals capacity realization project is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2014.

CN – comprised of Canadian National Railway and its operating railway subsidiaries – spans Canada and mid-America, from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to the Gulf of Mexico. 

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.