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Steel opportunities grow with energy plays

Keywords: Tags  Rail carloads, 2012 data, Association of American Railroads, crude oil, natural gas, fracking operations, Norfolk Southern, Donald Seale tubular steel

CHICAGO — North American railroads recorded a 37.8-percent year-on-year increase in petroleum product shipments in 2012, with the U.S. carloads total moving up more than 46 percent, according to the Association of American Railroads.

Norfolk Southern Corp., Norfolk, Va., saw crude oil shipments rise 9 percent in the fourth quarter and is ramping up service for crude oil traffic from the Bakken and Canadian oilfields to Eastern refineries, chief marketing officer Donald W. Seale said in a recent earnings call.

“We see a material opportunity in crude oil,” Seale said, adding that the trend will likely “accelerate” in 2013. Norfolk Southern ships steel to the Marcellus and Utica shale plays. “We see opportunities for the tubular steel business to grow,” he said.

CSX Corp. Inc., Jacksonville, Fla., averaged seven to nine trains of crude oil per week during the fourth quarter, chairman, president and chief executive officer Michael Ward told investors last month. “We expect that (metric) will increase in 2013: The energy, petroleum-related products and frac sand business is up,” he said.

“We heard an announcement of one ethylene cracker (steam cracking operation) being located on CSX (lines) and possibly a second one. We have two fractionators that are coming online in the first quarter in West Virginia,” he said.

“So petroleum-related products will be a very positive number,” he added.

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