Canada’s largest railway believes the “CanaPux” can be a game changer for the country’s oil industry.

The CanaPux, developed by the Canadian National Railway, is essentially crude oil mixed with a polymer and wrapped in that same polymer. The result is a solid puck-like product that CN Rail believes will mitigate the risks associated with train-based oil shipping, while at the same time opening the product to the global market and reducing shipping costs.

The Canapux would be shipped as a solid product. When it arrives at its destination it can be processed and restored to a traditional crude oil. 

A recent report from the IAEE Energy Forum indicates oil spills along the railway are three times more likely than a spill from a pipeline, but James Cairns, vice president of Petroleum Products and Chemicals at the Canadian National Railway, told CTV’s Your Morning the CanaPux would limit the damage of any potential oil spill.

“They won’t burn, they won’t ignite, they won’t create any dust, they won’t leach or dissolve into the environment and the best part about CanaPux is they float in water,” he said.

The pucks can also be transported in gondola cars, which are lighter than tank cars and make shipping more affordable.

Cairns says one of the biggest problems with Canada’s oil industry is that under the current rail and pipeline system, the majority of sales are to the United States.

“CanaPux allows us to get to tide water and export our crude oil to Asia,” he said.

Cairns hopes to have the first pilot plant up and running in the next 18-24 months.

This comes at the same time when Canada’s oil industry is increasing its reliance on the rail system. According to the National Energy Board, 134,132 barrels of crude oil were shipped through the rail system in September 2017, compared to 269,829 a year later.

To help with the backlog, the Alberta government is planning to buy two new trains of oil tanker cars.