Cushing complex key to Enbridge's infrastructure plans

Enbridge's Great Lakes to Gulf Coast series (Part 12)

Enbridge’s new large-volume pipeline pathway is expected to have a dramatic influence on the North American energy landscape.

But this is hardly an overnight development – in fact, you could say it’s been a decade in the making.

Together, the opening of our $2.8-billion Flanagan South line and the twinning of the Seaway Pipeline system represent North America’s first large-volume, full-path solution for safely and reliably delivering Western Canadian crude to the heavy oil refining market in Houston – and they’ve also put the final touches on our $5.2-billion Western Gulf Coast Access initiative.

Right in the middle of the picture is Cushing, Okla., the most important crude oil storage hub in the world, and the settlement location of the New York Mercantile Exchange’s West Texas Intermediate (NYMEX WTI) contract.

Cushing is the endpoint of our 593-mile, 585,000-barrel-a-day Flanagan South line, and the origin of the 512-mile, 850,000-bpd Seaway system. The Cushing complex is also the site of our largest tank farm – 88 tanks, 1,000 acres, and about 20.2-million barrels of shell capacity.

And for Enbridge, it all started back in late 2003. That’s when we began acquiring U.S. midcontinental assets – now known collectively as our Spearhead system – that included the Ozark Pipeline, crude storage at Cushing, and the Cushing-to-Chicago line, which we later reversed and rechristened Spearhead.

“Ten years ago, our company’s leadership definitely showed a lot of foresight, in terms of knowing what the North American crude oil transportation network would look like – where oil was going to come from; where it needed to go; and the key reversals, like Spearhead and Seaway, that were necessary,” says Jamie Lynch, Enbridge’s project supervisor for the Cushing Region.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that this was an opportunity identified by Enbridge many years ago,” adds Dave Hodgins, Enbridge’s senior manager for the Flanagan area. “Those acquisitions were strategic, and seen as a conduit in terms of taking our Lakehead (U.S. mainline) system and linking it up to markets in the Gulf Coast.”

One of the largest players at the Cushing complex, which has an overall shell capacity of 85 million barrels, Enbridge has access to 18 inbound pipelines and 16 outbound pipelines in Cushing.

Enbridge averaged an inbound flow of 2.2 million bpd and an outbound flow of 2.3 million bpd at Cushing – and that was before Flanagan South and the Seaway twin came online.

“And there’s still room for growth,” notes Lynch.