Innovative Rail Terminal Helps Oil Sands Company Transport Oil by Rail

Image courtesy of GeoEye


As one of the largest landholders in the oil sands industry, Grizzly Oil Sands wanted to expand its operations to capitalize on the benefits of shipping crude oil by rail to the U.S. Gulf Coast from its location in Alberta, Canada. The decision to ship by rail rather than by a planned oil pipeline would give the company more control, flexibility and potential to generate profit.

It would need to design and build a facility to load crude oil into railcars to be shipped by Canadian National Railway (CN). But any crude oil loading operations had to work with an existing gravel offload and storage terminal. Furthermore, staying on schedule would be crucial. The project timing coincided with an oil boom, so it was imperative that the project stayed on schedule to avoid losing upcoming slots in the busy schedules of numerous contractors.  


Grizzly Oil Sands partnered with SEH to design Windell Rail Terminal, an innovative facility with unique operations to load crude oil onto rail cars. Starting with concept development, the SEH team provided extensive design services that led to several design alternatives for a rail loading facility with five truck-to-railcar loading stalls. A total of 8,700 ft. of track was designed that included 11 turnouts and one mainline turnout. The SEH team adressed railroad track alignments and profiles, site grading, drainage, erosion control and storm sewer, including a lined stormwater pond. When an adjacent gravel company added a large-diameter culvert under the proposed track, the design team responded quickly by providing coordination with CN, Grizzly Oil Sands, the contractor and the gravel company. The design team’s quick reaction to changes during construction kept contractors working efficiently to ensure that construction would remain on schedule.

This was SEH’s first project in Alberta and our first project for Grizzly Oil Sands, but not the last. This early project demonstrates how our rail terminal design team’s solid client service, technical skills and responsiveness creates happy clients – whether in the United States or Canada.
Scott Lange, PE* – Project Manager

*Professional engineer registered in MN, ND, SD

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Rail Terminal

Alberta, Canada

Grizzly Oil Sands


  • Track design and construction
  • Transload facility design
  • Railcar staging
  • Right-of-way
  • Hydraulic and drainage design
  • Cost estimates
  • Contract and bidding documents
  • Contract administration
  • Utility coordination