The Canadian National Railway said Tuesday it will accelerate the upgrade of 74 miles of track in Wisconsin to handle growing demand for sand shipments used in hydraulic fracturing of shale formations by oil and gas developers in the Bakken region of North Dakota, Montana, and southern Canada, and elsewhere.
The railroad is investing $33 million to install heavier gauge track capable of supporting rail cars weighing 286,000 pounds between Wisconsin Rapids and Blair, which will increase the volume per car and allow for increased train speeds. The work, which began last year, will now be done in three years rather than four.
The track upgrades will benefit customers Badger Mining Corp., Preferred Sands of Wisconsin LLC, Atlas Resin Proppants LLC and Taylor Frac LLC.
Last year, CN also began a $35 million upgrade of almost 40 miles of track between Ladysmith and Barron, Wis., to restore service to Barron and serve sand processing plants.
The Bakken shale has become one of the largest oil producing regions in the United States. Increasing production levels have diminished the United States' need for imported oil and led energy experts to predict that the nation will soon become a net exporter of crude oil.
Shale oil and gas development is also occurring in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and other parts of the country.
Shale formations are injected with high pressure water and chemicals and specialized sand is pumped in to help keep the fissures open so gas and oil and can flow out to the wellbore.
"We have significantly increased the frac sand production capacity at our Taylor, Wis., facility, and CN's Whitehall Subdivision improvement will enhance our ability to efficiently move this production to both existing and new customers and markets," Stephen Hart, executive vice president of Badger Mining, said in the CN announcement.
Read "Steel-Wheeled Pipeline
" and the online sidebar "Where the 'frac' is my tank?
" in the January issue of American Shipper
to learn more about the logistics requirements for oil and gas shale development, including the transportation of "frac sand." - Eric Kulisch