moving crude by rail in Kazakhstan

February 23, 2015 – Transporting crude oil from Kazakhstan's giant Tengiz Field is a massive undertaking. While the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) is the major transporter of Tengiz crude, Chevron's affiliate Tengizchevroil (TCO) runs a vital alternative route to market: the TCO railroad -- one of the world's largest, if not the largest, private shortline railroads.

TCO Engine in the Snow

A snowstorm in 2012 was one of the worst in the nation's history, yet the TCO railroad's main line was closed for just 12 hours before resuming service.

Since TCO assumed ownership of the railroad in 1995, it has shipped more than 61.7 million metric tons of crude (492.4 million barrels of oil equivalent), using 1,026,824 railcars, from Tengiz to ports on the Black Sea. A familiar sight in the area of West Kazakhstan extending from the Tengiz Field, the railroad has 180 miles (290 km) of track, including 60 miles (96 km) of mainline track and 120 miles (194 km) of yard and mainline side tracks. This number will increase by more than nine miles (15 km) when track is added in 2015.

"Tengiz is a very remote location," says Ted Proctor, TCO's supervisor for rail transport. "And rail is one of the prime modes of transportation to maintain base business supplies in all weather."

Though pipeline operations may be affected by bad weather, planned and unplanned maintenance events, or other circumstances that restrict the flow into the CPC system, the train travels on unimpeded, delivering not only crude oil but also sulfur, propane and butane.

Of the six locomotives that were part of the agreement, two required major overhauls before they could ultimately be placed into service. The other four were not accepted due to their extremely poor physical condition. Additional work was also performed on the railroad-related facilities and structures.

TCO upgraded the railroad system, adhering to the best industry practices of both the Republic of Kazakhstan and U.S. railway systems. The overriding goal was to meet all of Kazakhstan's rules and regulations, as set forth by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications as well as TCO's safety guidelines.

Rail traffic was light in the early years, consisting mainly of small shipments of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and liquid sulfur. Traffic picked up substantially as TCO made improvements to its equipment and systems. TCO currently operates 30 locomotives.

Published: February 2015