Jackie Forrest, IHS senior director of global oil, said the guidelines have created uncertainty, and it's too soon to say whether the regulations will impact the development of rail cargo, but she, too, says the timing on the expected requirement for upgrading railcars is key.
Railroads have taken over where pipelines are lacking, either awaiting approval, like Keystone, or where pipelines are simply nonexistent. Crude shipments from the oil sands region in Western Canada alone should grow from 200,000 barrels per day at the end of 2013 to about 600,000 in 2016. "We have fast growth out of the Bakken region as well," Forrest said.
(Read more: Canadian oil moves south without the Keystone pipeline)
"So far, since the impact of future policy is still uncertain, we have not adjusted our outlook for rail owing to regulation changes," she said. Forrest noted that the industry estimates 78,000 cars require retrofits, of a total 92,000.
"We expect this could add $1 to $2 per barrel of additional cost for moving crude by rail," Forrest said. "However," she added, "more material is the time frame for making these changes. If it takes a large number of cars out of the fleet in a short time frame, that could slow down crude-by-rail movements. We do not expect to know the schedule for some time, perhaps about a year."
Forrest explained that at this point, she does not see the other proposed requirements, such as more testing of crude, slower speeds, different routings and more planning for emergency responds to affect the movement of oil substantially. But she is studying it further and watching for more clarity on the railcars.
(Read more: The great US oil debate: To export or not export)