Massachusetts companies such as Pan Am Railways, of Billerica, and the oil terminal operator Global Partners LP in Waltham are benefiting from the boom. In January alone, Global moved 100,000 barrels of oil a day from North Dakota to Albany by rail, said chief executive Eric Slifka. That, he estimated, amounted to a quarter of the products the company transported last month.
Cynthia Scarano, executive vice president for Pan Am Railways, said that increase in crude shipments has helped offset a drop in transporting coal, which has been increasingly replaced by cheaper and cleaner natural gas. “What we have lost in coal we have gained in oil,” Scarano said. “It saved jobs.”
Transporting shale oil via barge and rail has helped the region access cheap supplies, but New England will be able to reap the full benefits of lower-cost domestic oil only by building more pipelines, said Joe Petrowski, head of Cumberland Farms Gulf Oil Group, a major Northeast fuel distributor. Transportation costs, he said, still erase much of the savings from domestic oil.
“What I’m trying to do is get energy prices down for New England,” he said. “The less your average person in Brockton has to spend on gas and heating oil, the more they can spend on a sweater, a vacation, or a sub from Cumberland Farms.”