Crude Pipelines: Arteries of the North American Energy Industry | RefinerLink

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Crude Pipelines: Arteries of the North American Energy Industry

By Steve Pagani

Jun 11, 2012

There are over 7,000,000 barrels per day of crude oil pipeline capacity in the U.S. Can you connect the dots? 


Crude oil pipelines have become the arteries of the U.S. and Canada energy infrastructure connecting key producing regions (or PADDs). The advent of increased crude production across Canada and onshore U.S. has exploded the need for using crude oil pipelines to transport crude from production site to refining center. The increased publicity of the distressed Cushing crude oil inventories and the new U.S. crude refining margin advatange has pushed crude pipelines to the front of everyone’s minds.


For the first time in 70 years the U.S. energy industry is building crude oil pipelines as fast as permits and pipeline welders can be linked together. But where are all the crude oil pipelines out there?



There are dozens of crude pipelines across the U.S., but there are 9 critical crude oil pipelines that connect 5 key market centers (Edmonton, Chicago, Cushing, Houston, Gulf Coast Offshore).


Key Crude Oil Pipelines:



The Enbridge Lakehead system transports crude oil from Canada to the United States. The system exceeds 3,100 mi.  On average, it delivers 2 million barrels per day. It delivers crude from Edmonton to Chicago. 


One major junction point is in Clearbrook, Minnesota where the North Dakota Pipeline system (Bakken crude oil) connects to the Lakehead system. 


Spearhead Pipeline transports crude oil from Chicago to Cushing. The 650 mi. pipeline transports up to 300 MBD.




The Keystone pipeline is a crude oil pipeline that transports synthetic crude and diluted bitumen ("dilbit") from northeastern Alberta to Cushing and Patoka. The pipeline system capacity is 500 MBD.


The highly publicized Keystone XL pipeline system would also connect Alberta to Cushing with an extension to Houston. The expected capacity of Keystone XL is an additional 500 MBD.






Seaway pipeline currently transports 150 MBD from Cushing to Houston. The first barrels of crude on the reversed pipeline arrived in Houston in June 2012


The Seaway system pipeline also contains a connection to the Port Aurthur refining center. There are also plans to increase capacity to 450 MBD from Cushing to Houston. 


Lakehead (and Spearhead), Keystone, and Seaway are the key crude oil



pipelines that connect the expanding crude production regions in Canada and U.S. mid continenent to the major crude oil processing centers in Chicago and Houston.  

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  • :   Total Canadian imports have averaged 2.3 MM bpd in 2012 so the volume delivered value for Lakeland (2 MM bpd) seems high. That wouldn't leave much volume for Express/Platte, Trans Mountain, or Keystone.

    Jun 13, 2012

  • :   maybe the comment is 2 MM bpd Edmonton to Midcon as an aggregate - that seems more appropriate.

    Aug 31, 2012

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