Don't You (Forget About Me), Part 3 - Patoka Crude Oil Terminals and Outbound Pipelines

It is impossible to overstate the significance of the crude oil hub in Patoka, IL, to refineries in the Midwest. The seven-terminal hub, whose 80-plus above-ground tanks can hold more than 17 million barrels of crude oil, serves as the primary storage, blending, and staging site for a dozen refineries in five states with a combined capacity of more than 2.6 MMb/d. In other words, if the folks that keep Patoka running decide to take a couple of days off, Midwest refining would pretty much grind to a halt. And that’s not all: the southern Illinois hub also plays a critical role in sending crude oil south to the Gulf Coast. Today, we conclude our series on the Patoka hub with a look at the infrastructure within the facility’s boundaries and the pipes that transport oil out of it.

This is the third and final episode in our review of the second-largest crude oil hub in PADD 2, the largest being Cushing in Oklahoma. As we said in Part 1, the Patoka hub has undergone a number of changes since the late 1930s and early ’40s, when it first emerged as a regional storage and pipeline center to support the area’s then-thriving crude oil production. As Illinois production declined, these midstream assets made Patoka a natural hub for receiving piped-in crude from more distant sources and distributing it further to refineries being developed across the Midwest. First it was crude from Texas and Wyoming, then from the offshore Gulf of Mexico and overseas producers delivered via the Capline pipeline from St. James, LA, to Patoka. In the early and mid-2010s, rising Western Canadian production spurred the development of Keystone and other new pipelines to move that crude — and diluted bitumen, or “dilbit” — to U.S. markets. Then, in 2017, came the start-up of the 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 that help bring in WTI and other light, sweet domestic crude from a long list of basins, including Powder River, Denver-Julesburg (DJ), SCOOP/STACK, and Permian.

In Part 2, we discussed the five pipelines that flow directly into the Patoka hub as well as the many upstream systems that feed into these lines. As a group, Patoka’s five inbound pipelines have a combined capacity of just over 2 MMb/d: 454 Mb/d from Woodpat, 590 Mb/d from Keystone, 570 Mb/d from DAPL, 300 Mb/d from Southern Access Extension, and 100 Mb/d from Mustang. And, with plans already in place to expand three of these pipelines (Keystone by 50 Mb/d, DAPL by 180 Mb/d, and Southern Access Extension by 100 Mb/d), that 2 MMb/d inbound capacity will soon increase to more than 2.3 MMb/d.

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