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By the numbers: A look at crude oil moving through Minnesota

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How much oil passes through Minnesota each day? And what are its effects, from the economy, to our health, to the environment?

A new report, released Wednesday and pitched as a guide for citizens, details many of the questions and potential issues Minnesotans are now facing.

The report itself is 115 pages, so we pulled out a few of the notable numbers and findings. For background on the report – what it is, how to comment on it, and what it's for – scroll to the bottom of the page.

Key numbers from the report

3.3 million

That's how many barrels of oil travel through Minnesota every day. About 72 percent come via Canada, the rest from North Dakota's Bakken region. Of the 3.3 million barrels, 2.7 million travel via pipeline; 600,000 by train.


About how much it costs to ship a barrel of oil via pipeline – significantly cheaper than the $10-15 it costs to ship by rail. Trains, however, are faster and offer more flexibility if demand changes. Train companies can also offer shorter contracts to oil companies, and there are nearly 2 1/2 times more miles of rail available than there are miles of pipeline.

Flammable 3

Oil from North Dakota (generally sweet, light crude) and Canada (considered heavy, sour crude) are both categorized as "Flammable 3," meaning both are, yes, flammable. Bakken crude however is considered more volatile – and therefore more dangerous.


The number of miles of pipeline in Minnesota that carry hazardous liquid. About half of that is crude oil.


The number of trains per day that could be used to ship Bakken oil in 2023, if production meets its high targets. In 2014, 6.3 trains per day were used.


The number of drinking water management areas that are less than 2 miles away from a crude oil pipeline. Drinking water contamination is a serious risk, as is the potential negative health effects of vehicle and rail transportation, and refining and storage. These areas of concern can disproportionately affect low-income residents and people of color.

$109 million

How much extra farmers had to pay to ship grain and soybean on the rail from March through May in 2014. The huge jump is due to the increasing oil demand for train transport crowding the rails.


The report says 12 "direct and indirect" jobs are created for every $1 million a company invests into pipeline construction. However, the report says many of the jobs are temporary. The state brings in an estimated $28,875 in sales and use tax for every $1 million of new pipeline construction as well.

[Read the full, 115-page report here]

Background on the report

About 30 contributors, including representatives from 11 state agencies and five citizens, helped compile the report, the state's Environmental Quality Control Board says. It was published Wednesday.

“The report doesn’t offer any recommendations,” the Department of Commerce's Bill Grant told the Duluth News Tribune. “We didn’t write this to be directed at legislators, or state agencies or the governor. It is for all Minnesota citizens.”

This is a draft report – the final one will be released later this year, and included with it will be every single written public comment the group receives.

Public comments can be sent to, or mailed to:
Environmental Quality Board
520 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155.

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