The crude oil hub in Patoka, IL, is in many ways a smaller version of the hub in Cushing, OK. Like its larger sibling, Patoka receives a broad variety of crudes from Western Canada, the Bakken, and other production areas, stores and blends oil, and sends it out to refineries and Gulf Coast terminals tied to export docks. In Patoka’s case, there are only five major incoming pipelines that directly connect to the hub, but many of them receive crude from a number of upstream systems, some as far away as the Alberta oil sands. Important for Patoka’s future, a few of the pipelines feeding the hub are being expanded. Today, we continue our series on the second-largest oil hub in PADD 2 with a look at the pipelines that flow into Patoka and the sourcing of their crude.
As we said in Part 1, the Patoka hub in south-central Illinois is, in many ways, an outgrowth of the storage, pipeline, and other infrastructure that was developed in the late 1930s and early ‘40s to support the area’s then-thriving crude oil production. As Illinois production sagged over the following decades, these midstream assets made Patoka a natural center for receiving piped-in crude from more distant sources and distributing that oil to refineries being developed across the Midwest. First it was oil from Texas and Wyoming. Then, as U.S. onshore production waned in the late 1970s, the 1.2-MMb/d Capline pipeline was built to transport imported oil (and oil from the offshore Gulf of Mexico, or GOM) north from St. James, LA, to Patoka.
The morphing of the Illinois hub’s crude oil sourcing didn’t end there. Through the 1990s, 2000s, and especially the early 2010s, rising Western Canadian production spurred the development of new pipelines to move that crude oil — and diluted bitumen, or “dilbit” — to U.S. markets. To a significant degree, crude from the U.S.’s northern neighbor displaced imported and offshore GOM oil. By the mid-2010s, northbound volumes on Capline had slowed to only a couple of hundred thousand barrels a day. Ultimately the pipeline’s owners decided to take Capline out of service and take steps to reverse its direction; southbound flows from the Memphis, TN, area will start later this year, followed by the southbound flows from Patoka in early 2022. (More on Capline in Part 3, or if you want to see what we’ve written previously on the topic, see This is It.) Then, in 2017, came the start-up of the long-awaited Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which runs from the Bakken production area in western North Dakota to Patoka, followed by expansions of the Ozark and Wood River-to-Patoka (Woodpat) pipelines. (More on these next.)
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