The Canadian Energy Research Institute estimates railways in the country will require about $5 billion of investment over the next five years to keep up with demand, including increased shipments of oil.
If new pipeline projects don't come online, CERI estimates crude-by-rail will almost double from its current level of about 400,000 barrel per day.
"Crude will be in the Top 5 commodities if those pipelines aren't built," said Dinara Millington, vice-president of research for CERI, referring to nationwide shipping.
Currently, the Canadian Top 5 list includes:
- Forest products.
- Plastic and chemical products.
Even with the completion of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, Line 3 and Keystone XL, the institute still foresees growth.
Shipments in Alberta of petrochemicals — everything from propane to plastic pellets — are also expected to grow, but agricultural products will continue to top the provincial list of goods shipped by rail.