Enbridge Inc. is paying $1.15 billion US for a half-stake in an oil pipeline that stretches from the Gulf Coast to an overloaded storage hub at Cushing, Okla., the latest move by a Canadian company to capitalize on a push to feed hungry U.S. refineries.
The 805-kilometre Seaway Pipeline carries crude brought into the U.S. Gulf Coast by tanker north to Cushing, but Enbridge and its partner have decided to reverse its flow — the current route no longer makes sense, given the huge volumes flowing south from Alberta's oilsands and the Bakken region of Saskatchewan, Montana and North Dakota.
"The Seaway Pipeline reversal provides an early opportunity to offer Gulf Coast access to midcontinent producers and other crude oil shippers," said Enbridge chief executive Pat Daniel.
"A Seaway reversal will provide capacity to move secure, reliable supply to Texas Gulf Coast refineries, offsetting supplies of imported crude."
Enbridge rival TransCanada Corp. meanwhile, said it may be possible to build the southern leg of its own Alberta-to-Texas pipeline, Keystone XL, as early as next year in a move also designed to drain supplies from Cushing.
Calgary-based Enbridge is buying its 50 per cent stake in Seaway from ConocoPhillips, which announced earlier this year it would split itself up into two separate companies — one that would explore for and produce petroleum and another that would refine and market it.
Enbridge will be partners with Enterprise Products Partners LP. The two had already been working together on a Cushing-to-Gulf line called Wrangler, which they still intend to move forward.
"The Seaway acquisition and reversal fits well with the work on the Wrangler Pipeline project that Enbridge and Enterprise are jointly pursuing," said Enbridge spokeswoman Gina Jordan in an email.
"The need for additional capacity beyond a reversed Seaway still exists. Enbridge is exploring several options to provide shippers with access from Cushing to Gulf Coast refineries."
The Seaway pipeline will initially be able to carry 150,000 barrels per day by the second quarter of 2012. Following additional pump stations and modifications, capacity will increase to 400,000 barrels per day by early 2013.