The Association of American Railroads reported that 97,135 carloads of oil -- about 58 million barrels -- were delivered during the first quarter of the year, up 20 percent from fourth quarter 2012 and more than 160 percent higher than the same time last year.
AAR reported five of the 10 commodity groups delivered by rail posted increases for the week ending May 25 when compared to the same time last year. Petroleum and petroleum products led the way, with grain and metals deliveries down from last year.
For the first quarter of 2013, AAR said U.S. rail deliveries were up about 1 percent compared to last year.
Oil companies are turning to rail as U.S. oil production gains overwhelm existing pipeline capacity. A U.S. State Department draft review of the planned Keystone XL pipeline said rail should be considered when weighing the pipeline's national interest.
Pipeline companies say rail accidents are more common than pipeline releases, though spills are far less severe.