Nashville West - The Plan to Pipe Chicagoland Refined Products South to Central Tennessee

Motor gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel need to be delivered in large volumes to every major metropolis in the U.S. While most big cities are well-served, some by multiple pipelines or a combination of pipelines and barges, others are more isolated and susceptible to supply interruption. Nashville, the home of country music, is one such place; so are Chattanooga and Knoxville to its east. All three Tennessee cities depend heavily on stub lines off the Colonial and Plantation refined-products pipeline systems as they work their way from the Gulf Coast to the Mid-Atlantic states. When supplies on these pipes are interrupted — and they have been from time to time — these cities can experience shortages and price spikes, and be forced to turn to trucked-in volumes from Memphis and elsewhere. Today, we discuss a supply alternative now under development that will pipe motor fuels south from BP’s Whiting refinery in northwestern Indiana to a proposed Buckeye Partners storage and distribution terminal just west of Nashville.

A good friend who loves to drive took advantage of a Presidents Day sale back in February and bought a new SUV. In the 10 months since he was handed the keys, he has driven a total of … 1,790 miles. The COVID-19 pandemic that took hold in the U.S. in early March put the kibosh on a lot of our plans for driving — and flying! –– in 2020 and, depending on how things go, maybe 2021 as well. Despite the big decline in demand for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel this year, however, refineries are still refining and pipelines, barges, rail cars, and trucks are still delivering refined products, day-in/day-out. The volumes they carry may be lower, but the fuels remain as essential to life as oxygen, water, and good wi-fi.

A while back, in our blog Move It On Over, we discussed the two long-distance pipeline systems that transport refined products from the Gulf Coast to a slew of major metropolitan areas in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. The larger of the two is the 2.5-MMb/d, 5,500-mile Colonial Pipeline (blue line in Figure 1), which started operating in 1963; its primary lines run from Houston to Linden, NJ (just outside New York City), and it has several spurs or stub lines that branch out to supply cities that are not along the main route. (More on a couple of these in a moment.) Colonial is owned by five entities, including affiliates of Koch Industries, KKR, a Quebec pension fund, Royal Dutch Shell, and Australian infrastructure investor Industry Funds Management (IFM ­­–– remember that acronym). The smaller system is the 0.7-MMb/d Plantation Pipe Line (purple line), which is co-owned by Kinder Morgan and ExxonMobil and runs from near Baton Rouge, LA, to northern Virginia (near Washington, DC). It too has a number of spurs/stub lines along its main stem.

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