Until TransCanada's (NYSE:TRP) political hot potato, the Keystone XL Pipeline project, is given the green light, Canadian oil sands producers have to find other ways to get their oil to the lucrative Gulf Coast marketplace. While the project's new route in Nebraska was recently approved by that state, it still needs to be approved by the U.S. State Department. The project's delays haven't helped a situation in which lack of pipeline takeaway capacity continues to depress the price of Canadian crude.
To combat the problem, shippers are turning to rail to get their crude oil to market. Canadian National Railway (NYSE:CNI) is building a new terminal in the Gulf region to unload 25,000 barrels of oil per day to then be sent to refiners. Canadian National CMO Jean-Jacques Ruest sees the company doubling its crude oil shipping business this year to 60,000 carloads. That's on top of last year's growth to 30,000 carloads, from just 5,000 carloads in 2011. While not all of that will be Canadian crude, it'll certainly help as profits for Canadian crude shipped by rail are about $18 higher per barrel than those currently shipped by pipeline.
There are several pipeline expansion projects on the horizon that should narrow that spread and further increase the profits of Canadian producers. One project that's expected to help is the Seaway pipeline reversal and expansion project. With the pipeline's reversal now complete, the 50/50 venture between Enterprise Products Partners (NYSE:EPD) and Enbridge (NYSE:ENB) is now in the process of being expanded to double its capacity by early 2014.
That project is just one of many that should increase the flow of Canadian crude to more profitable marketplaces. Looking out longer term, the $5.4 billion expansion that Kinder Morgan (NYSE:KMI) has planned for its Trans Mountain pipeline will provide West Coast access to Canadian shippers. Because of the demand from shippers, the project will expand from its original plan of 750,000 barrels per day to the current plan of 890,000 barrels per day. The project, which will triple its existing capacity, won't be complete until 2017.
For income-seeking investors, the pipeline expansion projects should lead to nice distribution increases once they are completed. The Seaway project in particular should give Enterprise Product Partners' investors a steady pay raise as the company works to get the expansion online. Until the pipelines are complete, investors can look to profit from the growth of Canadian crude by rail, with Canadian National being positioned best to profit from this trend.
Editor's note: The previous version of this article stated that Mr. Ruest is the CEO of Canadian National Railway when in fact he is the Chief Marketing Officer. The Motley Fool regrets the error.