Alberta to Alaska bitumen railway feasible: Study

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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A study released by the University of Calgary Van Horne Institute suggests that it is feasible to build a railway to transport bitumen between Alberta and Alaska.

The Van Horne Institute, with a Project Team including Shirocca Consulting, AECOM, Generating for Seven Generations, the University of Alaska and Michigan Tech Research Institute, published the Alberta to Alaska Railway Pre-Feasibility Study.

The proposed railway between Fort McMurray and Delta Junction, Alaska, is comprised of 2,440 kilometers (1,500 miles) of single, standard gauge bi-directional heavy-haul track. The track is upgradable to a double-track configuration that would add substantial capacity. The study identifies rolling stock equipment and manpower requirements for both a 1.0 million barrel per day (MBPD) and 1.5 MBPD bitumen volume.

The study recognizes that the proposed railway passes through, or comes in close proximity to, a number of areas that are environmentally protected, support migratory and/or sensitive or endangered species, or are important for wildlife and biodiversity, especially along major river valleys. The Environmental Approval and Permitting process will be extensive and complex and is defined in the study.

The study includes a detailed analysis of capital and operating cost estimates, as well as a business case analysis. The capital cost ranges between C$28 billion and C$34 billion (US$20 billion and US$25 billion) for 1.0 MBPD to 1.5 MBPD. The defined route for the railway will create an opportunity to transport, to North American and to world markets, mineralization deposits that to date, are locked in. The metallic mineral potential within the project corridor is estimated to generate in-place gross metal values between C$333 billion and CA$659 billion (US$246 billion and US$487 billion) throughout 30 years of operation.

“This analysis presents an alternative routing for the transportation of bitumen from Western Canada to world markets,” said Peter Wallis, President and CEO of the Van Horne Institute. “While the timing for the completion of this initiative includes further feasibility analysis, environmental approval and permitting and construction at a significant cost, it is a nation- building project. Transportation is an enabler of any economy and this initiative will unlock the petroleum and mineral potential of the north in both Canada and the U.S. We hope that governments, First Nations and industry will take the time to consider all of the opportunities that this study identifies.”

Download a PDF of the full study at the link below.


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