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Alberta-Alaska railway: Will it be built?

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published November 18, 2012

Will a railway intended to carry oil products from Alberta to Alaska be built in the next decade? The Canadian company G Seven Generations (G7G) is banking on it, but first it needs investors to fund the project.

The proposed railway would run more than 1,600 miles from Fort McMurray, Alberta, to Delta Junction, Alaska, where the trans-Alaska pipeline is enroute from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. Oil could be pumped into the pipeline there.

"Currently, TAPS is running at less than one-third of its designed capacity of 1.8 million to 2 million barrels per day. A pipeline on wheels could deliver to Alaska enough oil to fill the pipeline to capacity, " Fairbanks North Star Borough mayor Luke Hopkins told InterBering, a company promoting a rail connection linking the United States with Asia across the Bering Strait.

For an estimated cost of $10.4 billion, the 1,632-mile track would be able to transport 4 million barrels per day of oil products, according to InterBering, which cites "conservative" revenue estimates at $3.5 billion a year.

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell wrote to G7G that "the potential economic benefits of a rail link for both Alaska and Canada have been envisioned as far back as the Harriman Expedition in the mid-1800s. Tremendous mineral wealth also exists along and near the rail corridor. "

The project has received support from First Nations of Canada and from Alaska Native tribes, according to G7G.

InterBering says the Alberta design would further its overarching goal of linking the Arctic with railways.

However, the project will take more than support; it also needs funding. Bruce Carr, director of strategic planning for the Alaska Railroad Corporation, told InterBering in July, "It's a mind-boggling project for the American side, and the federal government would have to help support it." That support has not been offered, and with federal budget deficit nearly $16 trillion, that may be difficult to obtain.

G7G is looking for $4.5 million to secure an operating line of credit in order to conduct a feasibility study of the project. The company says that if the money can be secured, the railway can be built by 2018.

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