The nation’s pipeline projects this year have met with volcanic reactions that canceled three majors in the Eastern Atlantic, stalled several others, and turned upside down at least three already in service. These are the facts at hand, which now bring even greater challenges to natural gas and power utilities in need of more fuel to meet consumer demand; refineries that require feedstock; petrochemical facilities that depend on supplies to produce raw materials used globally; and U.S. producers who transport oil and gas to end markets. If the current pipeline landscape subsists, the aftereffects are predicted to bring seriously diminishing returns in an era of carbon-neutral goals.
According to Rystad Energy, if the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is shut down in August following a July court mandate to halt operations and empty its line of Bakken crude oil, an initial 300,000 BPD will have to be transported by rail. The DAPL is the largest outbound Bakken pipeline, which means other pipelines and refineries will need to absorb at least 900,000 BPD. And as far as those “other” pipelines, the DAPL ruling came on the heels of a court-ordered closure earlier in July of the Bakken’s Tesoro High Plains Pipeline that’s been in operation for 67 years. As curtailed volumes in the Bakken are expected to come back online later this year, Rystad foresees significant bottlenecks ahead with the lack of primary exit routes. This suggests more rail, more trucks, more flaring, and more emissions. Again, diminishing returns.
Rystad also predicts gas output from the Permian will rebound during the second half of this year and is expected to return to record levels by late 2021. That’s the good news. The bad news is that regulatory obstacles and belt-tightening have delayed or put on hold several pipelines to feed supplies to the East Coast, Gulf Coast LNG facilities, and Mexico. With the need for new gas takeaway projects from the Permian beginning in 2023, Rystad estimates another period of increased gas flaring citing it’s highly possible that any new pipelines will be approved too late, resulting again in a situation with insufficient infrastructure.
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