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* Completes 70,000 bpd light crude rail unloading facility
* Expects 17 more trains of Bakken crude in next two weeks
* Plans $50 mln expansion to add 40,000 bpd of heavy crudes
By Cezary Podkul
NEW YORK, Feb 4 (Reuters) - PBF Energy said Monday it expects the first trainload of North Dakota's Bakken crude oil to discharge this week at its 190,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery in Delaware City, Delaware.
Seventeen more trains are scheduled to arrive in the next two weeks, giving the independent U.S. refiner more access to cheap North American crude oil in a wider industry shift away from high-cost imported crude.
The company has completed a rail expansion project at Delaware City that allows the refinery to handle 70,000 bpd of light crude oil deliveries from places like the Bakken. The refinery can also handle 40,000 bpd of heavier Canadian crude rail deliveries for a total of 110,000 bpd.
The lack of pipeline capacity from Canada and the Bakken is forcing refiners like PBF to ship crudes by rail. It has also driven down crude oil prices to the point where more costly shipping methods, like trains, now make economic sense for coastal refineries.
Another project is already in the works to double Delaware City's Canadian crude-by-rail delivery capacity from 40,000 to 80,000 bpd, PBF said. The project is expected to cost about $50 million and be completed in the fourth quarter of 2013.
"We believe that Canadian heavy barrels will be the most economic barrels on the market and we intend to take the necessary steps to maximize our exposure to this advantaged crude," PBF Chief Executive Officer Tom Nimbley said in a statement.
PBF said it is procuring 2,000 more railcars to ship the heavy Canadian crude, plus an additional 500 general purpose railcars, expected to be delivered in 2014 and 2015. With the new railcars, PBF said, it will have a total of 3,600 owned and leased railcars capable of handling heavy crudes.
A PBF spokesman could not immediately provide more details on the railcar financing.
Shares of PBF were up 0.57 percent at $33.49 per share in late-morning Monday trading.