The construction of an oil pipeline often involves a contentious review process where stakeholders — from business and government to private citizens and environmental groups — all lobby for a result that supports their often widely divergent objectives.
And after surviving this undertaking, what happens to the pipelines that do get constructed? Well, some are ferrying oil across the country as we speak. But what might surprise you is how many pipelines aren’t doing much of anything at all.
Energy research firm Woods Mackenzie recently shared some data with Reuters that suggests about half of the oil pipelines in the U.S. are currently sitting unused.
Prior to the pandemic, an oil boom helped pipeline production flourish to accommodate a rush of oil coming out of Texas' Permian Basin. But when the bottom dropped out of the market in spring of 2020, the region was left with a network of vacant infrastructure.
And it’s not just in Texas, where there is an oversupply of pipelines. Some of the nation’s biggest networks are running at reduced capacity, including the Dakota Access, which was at 100% pre-pandemic and is now moving about 77% of capacity.
So will the end to the pandemic mean the end to the empty pipeline situation? Not necessarily. A follow-up report in Gizmodo detailed how pressure from OPEC, as well as American investors who lost money during the shale boom, is encouraging U.S. producers to limit production — not to mention that the world continues to take steps to encourage separation from fossil-fuel intensive technologies and industries in the name of climate consciousness.
Will these empty pipelines live to see a ramp-up of oil and gas? Or will they stay dead and buried?