Houston — Canadian crude-by-rail exports edged higher to a record in November, topping the 300,000 b/d level for only the second time since the government has kept statistics on shipments.
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Exports by rail from Canada averaged 330,402 b/d in November, up 3,173 b/d from the previous record in October, according to the latest figures from the country's National Energy Board. Crude-by-rail exports, which topped 200,000 b/d for the first time in June, probably reached around 350,000 b/d in December, according to energy-focused investment bank Tudor, Pickering Holt.
The record November export figures come amid government-mandated production cuts of around 325,000 b/d that took effect January 1. The production cuts sparked a price rally for Western Canadian Select, the benchmark heavy crude, that saw its differential gain more than $44/b from October 11 to a recent high of minus $6.95/b on January 11, a level traders have said makes shipping crude by rail uneconomical.
"Look, if this [differential to WTI] stays at $8 to $10, there's probably going to be some challenges," said John Brooks, chief marketing officer for Canadian rail operator Canadian Pacific, during a fourth-quarter earnings conference call Wednesday.
Western Canadian Select at Hardisty was last heard to trade at WTI CMA minus $9.25/b Thursday morning.
Brooks said on the call he expects ongoing pressure from Canadian crude prices to continue through February, but described crude shippers as "bullish" that strong demand seen before the new year will return.
Canada's government has said it will review output cuts monthly, with the goal of reducing the restrictions to 95,000 b/d before ending them in December.
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