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Pipeline Transportation Industry Analysis


Pipeline transportation is the process of transporting liquids and gases through pipes. The movement of petroleum, natural gas and mixed products on oil fields, the process of bringing oil and gas onshore from offshore wells and municipal networks for natural-gas distribution, water supply and sewerage, as well as long-distance transport of oil and gas, are all part of pipeline transportation. Long-distance pipelines are an economical and efficient mode of transport for natural resources, particularly oil and gas. For instance, about 70% of the oil produced in Alberta, Canada is shipped to refineries in the USA through pipelines because transporting a barrel of crude oil through pipelines is on average $10 cheaper than by rail.


The Eastern Siberia–Pacific Ocean oil pipeline owned by Transneft, which is used to export crude oil from Russia to Japan, China and Korea, is one of the longest pipelines in the world at over 4,700 kilometers.


Key Segments


Natural gas and oil travels from the wellhead to end consumers through different types of pipelines:


Gathering lines are small interconnected pipelines forming complex networks that bring crude oil or natural gas from several nearby wells to a treatment plant or processing facility. In Western Canada about 250,000 kilometers of gathering lines carry natural gas, crude oil and combinations of these products for processing.


Feeder lines move products from processing facilities and storage tanks in the field to transmission pipelines. There are about 25,000 km of feeder lines in Canada.


Transmission pipelines, also known as trucklines, are used to transport large volumes of products including oil and gas to local distribution companies. In the USA more than 190,000 miles of petroleum transmission pipelines and about 300,000 miles of natural gas transmission pipelines are operated to move oil and gas.


Distribution pipelines are used to take the products to the final consumers. This network is used by local distribution companies. Russia has more than 765,000 km of gas distribution networks.



Regional Market Shares


The key geographies with extensive pipeline networks are the large oil and gas producing nations:


Russia: Russia is the world's largest producer of crude oil, second largest producer of dry natural gas and third largest producer of petroleum and other liquids and so has an extensive pipeline network to move these natural resources. The Unified Gas Supply System (UGSS) owned by Gazprom in Russia is the world’s largest gas transmission system. The UGSS includes about 170,000 km of gas trunklines.


The USA: According to the American Petroleum Institute more than 190,000 miles of liquids pipeline were operated in the country in a recent year. Of this about 60,900 miles of pipelines were used to move crude oil, more than 63,000 miles transported refined petroleum products and over 62,000 miles delivered natural gas liquids (NGLs). According to Energy Information Administration data the USA has over 300,000 miles of intrastate and interstate natural gas transmission pipelines.


About 97% of Canadian natural gas and crude oil is moved across Canada and the USA through pipelines. There are more than 800,000 km of transmission, gathering and distribution lines in Canada. This includes about 100,000 km of large-diameter transmission lines of which over 73,000 km are pipelines federally regulated by the country’s National Energy Board.



Market Outlook


Major trends are likely to create competition for pipeline transportation:


Pipelines have traditionally been the preferred mode of transportation for oil but increasingly producers are also turning to rail to move crude oil, especially in the USA where crude oil production is exceeding pipeline capacity. In a recent year transportation of crude oil by rail there increased from 50,000 barrels per day (b/d) in 2010 to more than 800,000 b/d and more than 600,000 rail carloads of petroleum compared to about 9,500 carloads in 2008. Against this background investment in rail infrastructure and marine logistics for transporting crude oil and NGLs has increased recently to more than $5 billion. This trend to transport more oil by rail is likely to continue to gain momentum in the foreseeable future.


For many years crude oil dominated the transportation market. However international refined products transportation has been rising steadily in recent years, thereby creating demand for maritime transportation. Gulf Cooperation Council nations in particular are investing in refining capacity to process domestically-produced heavy crude grades and so will transport them as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. For this reason these countries are investing more in ship transportation to support their gasoil exports to the emerging countries of Asia. This trend is likely to have a huge impact on demand for product tankers, and in particular larger product tankers.



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