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First publish date: 05-08-2006
KCSR Petroleum Coke Train Breaks Previous Turnaround Record
On April 12, a Kansas City Southern Railroad 70-car petroleum coke train departed from the Port of Corpus Christi, Texas, destined to Montana, Mexico, making a complete roundtrip cycle in 13 days.

The cement plant near San Luis Potosi began receiving petroleum coke in trainload volumes in November 2005. The eight previous trains of petroleum coke, which were loaded in private cars experienced roundtrip cycles of 14 to 20 days.

Last fall, a team was formed to improve the transit time on petroleum coke cars moving from Corpus Christi to Mexico. Transit times on single cars shipped to San Luis Potosi were averaging 25 to 28 days. Demand for petroleum coke has grown dramatically in Mexico in recent years as cement firms and other manufacturing companies have converted from expensive fuel oil to cheaper petroleum coke as a fuel source. Corpus Christi petroleum coke is especially attractive due to its low-sulphur content. The local refinery in Corpus Christi produces one million metric tons of petroleum coke per year of which 424,000 tons moved by rail in 2005 and the rest was shipped by water. The refinery plans to double their production of petroleum coke to two million metric tons in 2008.

The team set out to address challenges such as transit time, limited car fleet, billing, congestion, switching delays and rejected cars. As a result of meetings with the refinery, the coke supplier, the Port of Corpus Christi, the transloader, the shipper, and the receiver, the team developed efficiencies that included improved blocking of cars and car inspections at the Port, more timely loading at the Port, reduced switching delays at Corpus and Laredo, expedited billing information and locomotives dedicated to the train. Communications between all parties was enhanced as more data was shared and daily reports were setup. Finally, the cement plant agreed to unload a 70-car train at their plant site within 48 hours.

The team's next goal is to increase the number of petroleum coke trains to the cement plant from two per month to three per month. Another petroleum coke train is being considered for receivers in the Monterrey area. The team consisted of Bill Nolen, Scott Thomas, Gerado Leal, Rafael Marvan, Norma Quiroz, Ron Bird, Glenn Turner and Rich Weigel.

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