Crude Oil By Rail: On The Rise In Colorado And Everywhere

The transport of crude oil by rail has spiked dramatically in recent years. From 2012 to 2013 the amount carried by the country’s major freight railroads increased nearly 75 percent, according to the American Association of Railroads.  Even though crude oil accounted for just over 1 percent of overall rail traffic last year, there’s growing public concern about the potential oil spills and other hazards. This increase in crude oil by rail is playing out across Colorado’s Niobrara formation along the eastern plains, with resource-rich Weld County being ground zero. As the state’s oil production boom continues—exceeding the capacity of pipelines that traditionally have carried the oil—more companies are shipping crude by rail. Over the past two years, rail companies have built two crude loading facilities and doubled capacity at a third site in Weld County.

MAKING ENERGY: To Frack Or Not To Frac

While the media, the public and now the Merriam-Webster Collegiate dictionary all spell it “fracking,” many in the oil and gas industry don’t. “I would spell it frac’ing,” said Scott Hall, a Denver-based petroleum engineer with decades in the industry. He’s not alone. Many others in the industry spell it either “fracing” or “fraccing,” they never use the “k.”

“The minute I start seeing people spell it ‘f-r-a-c-k-i-n-g’ that’s a red flag that you don’t know that much about the technology—early on. Now it’s starting to become more common now,” said Hall.