Bakken Crude Pushed to West Coast Refining Markets

Bakken Crude Rail Costs
Bakken Crude Rail Costs

Bakken Crude could be pushed out of the Gulf Coast refining market as soon as this year or early next year. That prediction was revealed by Bentek Energy Sr. Analyst Erika Coombs at the annual Benposium Conference in early June of 2014.

Production growth in the Eagle Ford Shale and Permian Basin, and nearly completed pipeline and infrastructure projects for the Permian, will make Bakken crude transport to the Gulf Coast uncompetitive according to Coombs. As a result, oil production from the Bakken is expected to primarily target the West Coast refining markets in Washington and California. 

Although the destination for some Bakken crude volumes may be changing, how it will get there is not. Analysts at the conference said rail will remain the major source of transport for Bakken crude. Approximately 70% of Bakken crude arrives to market by rail.

Read more: Railroads Are Moving 70% of Bakken Oil Production

Currently, pipeline infrastructure in the Bakken is slim, but two new major oil pipelines have been proposed to serve the Williston, including the Double H Pipeline and the Sandpiper Pipeline. At the end of 2013, Enbridge Partners, the company that proposed the Sandpiper Pipeline, announced it reached an agreement with Marathon Petroleum to become an anchor shipper.

Read more: Enbridge's Sandpiper Pipeline Gains Anchor Shipper in Marathon Petroleum - Open Season

Highlights from Benposium 2014

  • Rail will remain the primary source of transportation in the Williston Basin
  • Bakken crude oil transport will shift from Gulf Coast refining market to West Coast
  • Bentek predicts the price of crude oil will dip to $82 by 2019
  • Bakken average drilling days down from 30 - 19 from 2011 - 13

Enbridge's Sandpiper Project Will Expand its North Dakota System

Sandpiper Project Map - Enbridge
Sandpiper Project Map - Enbridge

Enbridge is planning a new 600-mile, 24-inch pipeline, the Sandpiper Project, from Beaver Lodge, ND, to Superior, WI. The Sandpiper Project has a planned cost of $2.5 billion and will move 225,000 b/d of Bakken crude The pipeline is part of a larger program in which Enbridge will invest $6.2 billion to increase accessibility to North Dakota and Western Canada's light crude. In total, the system expansions will move 400,000 b/d of light oil. The pipeline has shipper support and is expected to be completed in early 2016. FERC approval is required before construction begins.

The Sandpiper Project is likely a determining factor in Oneok Canceling the Bakken Crude Express. If Enbridge's estimates prove true, you could see the Bakken Crude Express or a similar project come back to life. Current production is near 700,000 b/d and Enbridge expects it could grow to 1,200,000 b/d in the next five years.

"This $6.2 billion investment rounds out our suite of major crude oil new market access initiatives for North American markets," said Al Monaco, President and Chief Executive Officer, Enbridge Inc. "..... These market access initiatives reflect changing North American supply and demand fundamentals and will create significant value for our customers....."

It must be a promising investment. Enbridge has a total of $26 billion in projects planned between 2012 and 2016. That's impressive considering the company (ENB) has a market cap of ~$35 billion. Add Enbridge Energy Partner's market cap and it's closer to $43 billion - still no small feat. The $2.5 billion Sandpiper Project will be funded by EEP.