WASHINGTON — More oil is flowing through the nation’s network of pipelines as it expands to accommodate a flood of crude coming out of U.S. wells today.
Some 192,400 miles of pipelines ferried crude oil, refined petroleum products and natural gas liquids across the country in 2013, marking a 9.3 percent increase in overall mileage from 2008, according to a new report from the Association of Oil Pipe Lines and the American Petroleum Institute.
And last year nearly 15 billion barrels of crude oil and petroleum products traveled through U.S. transmission pipelines — a 10.6 percent boost from 2008. About 8.3 billion barrels of that was crude.
The numbers underscore the surge in energy infrastructure — and demand for it — that is accompanying the domestic drilling boom. As crude production has grown — up 3 million barrels per day since January 2011, according to the Energy Information Administration — producers are searching for ways to get it to market.
“The nation’s pipeline operators are busy providing the infrastructure needed to deliver these new supplies from where they are produced to where they are processed, refined and then delivered to American workers and consumers,” said the AOPL report, which draws from documents filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. “Similarly, pipeline operators are expanding existing pipelines and repurposing underused pipelines to uses (that are) more in demand.”
Some pipelines were built long ago to accommodate old drilling hotbeds, sometimes meant to deliver products to the same areas where oil and gas production is now booming.
For example, Enterprise Products Partners switched the direction of a pipeline that previously carried natural gas liquids from Texas to the Northeast, to take advantage of the surge in gas production from the Marcellus shale formation. Now, the pipeline sends ethane from Pennsylvania to Enterprise’s fractionators and other facilities in Mont Belvieu, Texas.
In some areas of the country with big surges in oil and gas production, pipeline infrastructure is still scarce. That’s a challenge facing producers in the Bakken formation in North Dakota, as well as companies operating in parts of New Mexico.
According to the Association of Oil Pipelines Report:
- The 192,396 miles of liquids pipelines operating in the United States last year, were pretty evenly divided, with 60,911 miles dedicated to crude, 63,532 miles transporting refined petroleum products such as gasoline and 62,742 miles moving natural gas liquids, such as propane and ethane.
- While the total U.S. pipeline mileage of 192,396 miles represents a 15.4 percent climb over the past 10 years, crude oil pipelines saw the biggest increase; the total mileage of pipelines dedicated to transporting crude is up 23.6 percent over the past decade.
- Refined petroleum product pipeline mileage has actually gone down 0.8 percent since 2012, though it is up 1.8 percent overall since 10 years ago, and counts 1,141 more miles since 2003.
The association sees crude oil pipeline growth accelerating over the past 10 years, with a big uptick since 2012.