Pipeline expansion from Cushing to Gulf almost complete

Work to more than double the capacity of a pipeline carrying crude oil from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf Coast should be completed by the end of next week.

That will help to ease a long-standing glut of crude oil at Cushing, the main pipeline hub in the United States.

The Seaway Crude Oil Pipeline had carried oil north from the Gulf Coast to Cushing since 1995. The flow was reversed in September.

The expansion will increase the capacity from 150,000 barrels of oil per day to 400,000 barrels per day.

The pipeline was shut down Wednesday and is expected to reopen when all work is completed late next week, said Rick Rainey, a spokesman for Enterprise Products Partners.

Seaway is a joint venture owned by affiliates of Enterprise, the operator of the venture, and Enbridge Inc.

Enbridge purchased its ownership interest from ConocoPhillips in late 2011. In addition to the 500-mile pipeline from Freeport to Cushing, the system includes a terminal and crude oil distribution network originating in Texas City and serving all of the refineries in the Houston area.

The daily spot price for West Texas Intermediate is set at Cushing, and backups there — attributed largely to growing crude production in Canada and northern states — are blamed for making prices lower than the international benchmark, Brent crude. Analysts say that until the network to move oil from Cushing improves, the glut will continue to suppress pricing for West Texas Intermediate.

Pipeline service continued without interruption during the expansion work until Wednesday’s shutdown, Rainey said.

The Seaway Pipeline expansion will more than double the line's crude carrying capacity from Cushing Okla. to the Gulf Coast. (Houston Chronicle)