Since January 2010, rail shipments of asphalt have remained flat, but the shipments of petroleum coke have risen by two thirds over the same period, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The shipments rose 73% to 237,000 barrels per day in 2016, from 137,000 barrels per day in 2010 and have supported increasing U.S. exports.
The EIA recently started tracking rail shipments of asphalt and petroleum coke, which is a byproduct of a coker unit found in petroleum refineries and used as a fuel for making cement and to produce aluminum and steel.
“The heavier a particular crude oil is, the more petroleum coke it will generally yield,” according to the EIA. The majority of petroleum coke is produced and exported from the Gulf Coast. The largest volume of the coke is transported in the No. 3 Petroleum Administration for Defense District or PADD 3, which includes Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas. The Midwest region or PADD 2 transports the second most.
“Asphalt is primarily used for paving roadways and as construction material such as roofing shingles, so the movement of asphalt tends to rise during the summer construction season and fall during winter,” according to the EIA. Since 2010, shipments of asphalt have been flat, averaging about 81,000 barrels per day. In 2016, nearly half of all asphalt shipments started in the Midwest or PADD 2 because the region has the most asphalt production capacity. Almost half of rail shipments of asphalt that started in the Midwest remained in the region. The East Coast or PADD 1 received the most asphalt by rail in 2016, about 29,000 barrels per day.