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New pipeline needed to meet surge in demand for Permian crude

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Growing supply of Permian crude means the basin will need extra crude oil takeaway capacity of up to 500,000 barrels per day (b/d) by the end of next decade, according to new research from global natural resources consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

A moderate overbuild of pipeline capacity is expected in the early 2020s as the current wave of pipeline investments are completed, with midstream operators set to add about 4 million b/d of new US Gulf Coast-bound capacity by the end of 2022.

This wave of investment includes seven proposals for new Permian pipelines, with four ultimately reaching a final investment decision (FID). More than 2 million b/d of this new capacity will flow into the Corpus Christi market for export.

The rapid addition of pipeline capacity will result in two to three years of overbuild, before normal long-haul capacity supply and demand conditions begin to re-emerge, Wood Mackenzie found.

John Coleman, principal analyst, North America crude markets, said: “As production growth expands well into the 2030s, US Gulf Coast-bound pipeline capacity will tighten. By the mid-2030s, Permian-to-Gulf Coast pipeline utilisation will surpass 92% in the absence of further investment, necessitating pipeline expansions or greenfield capacity.”

Wood Mackenzie’s supply forecast indicates there will be an additional call for Permian-to-Gulf Coast crude capacity of up to 500,000 b/d, with FID for the new capacity likely to be reached in the mid-to-late 2020s.

Mr Coleman said: “We are in the midst of one of the largest crude infrastructure investment booms in US history, with much of the investment focused on the Permian basin.

“As massive as this current investment wave is, we don’t think the story is yet finished. Additional capacity adds will be needed again by the end of the next decade.

“The next chapter in this story will be focused on ensuring sufficient export terminal capacity in coastal markets. As these new pipelines move into service later this year, we expect a surge in crude export volumes out of Corpus Christi.”

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