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All Quiet In The Rail Yards Of The State's Crude Oil Shipping Industry

Catherine Jamieson

Shipping oil by rail took off in recent years, as pipelines struggled to handle all the new crude oil being produced in the U.S. But now, with the price of oil in a slump, crude-by-rail companies are seeing their business drop off. 

Tiger Transfer Chief Operating Officer Rueben Ritthaler says now, with drilling slowing down, his rail yard is quiet.

“The pipelines are handling it, productions down and the need for the oil movement, it’s just stopped.”

He says, not that long ago, Tiger Transfer was getting trains with as many as 100 cars at their rail yard in Upton, Wyoming. Ritthaler says now, that business has dried up, forcing his company to get creative.

“You have a system that has been very well populated with new equipment they have to park someplace. If they’re not loading and moving they have to put them someplace, so that is becoming a big use of rail now, where to put the equipment?”

So Ritthaler says his company is keeping afloat by renting storage space for that idle equipment. They also continue to ship frack sand, which is used in the drilling process, but that business is dwindling too.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.

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