AOPL: pipelines' share of US petroleum transportation rising

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 5 -- US crude oil and product pipelines continued to increase their share of total US petroleum transportation in 2008, the Association of Oil Pipe Lines said on Jan. 4 in its latest annual report.

“Pipelines accounted for 71% of all petroleum transportation in 2008, up from 66.8% in 2007 and 54% in 1990,” AOPL Pres. Andrew J. Black said. “Shippers recognize that pipelines are the most efficient, reliable, and safe method of transporting liquid fuels.”

AOPL’s report considered four major transportation modes—pipelines, motor carriers, water carriers, and railroads—and two major petroleum categories: oil and products. For 2008, it said, total ton-miles for all transportation modes grew by 5.6% from the previous year.

Pipelines transported 12.9% more crude and products in 2008 (629.9 billion ton-miles) than in 2007, while motor carriers transported 0.03% less (35.1 billion), water carriers moved 10.3% less (194 billion), and railroads moved 13.5% less (23 billion), according to the report.

It said that in 2008, pipelines were the largest conveyers of crude (83%, up from about 53% in 1990) and products (62%, up from 56% in 1990). Water carriers provided the second-highest level of ton-miles in 2008, representing 16% of crude’s total and 27% of products’ total, it indicated.

“Pipelines and water carriers are the two main modes of transport, but their relative importance has changed,” the report said. “In 1990, pipeline ton-miles were about 30% higher than water carriers’. In 2008, pipeline volumes increased while water carrier volumes decreased, so pipelines transported almost 225% more, or about 3.25% the amount of oil by water carriers.”

It said that while overall US crude oil production was declining, pipelines’ share of its US transportation rose from 53.3% in 1990 to 83.4% in 2008. Water carriers’ share, meanwhile, plunged from 46.4% to 16% during the same period, largely because fewer coastal water carriers were required to move crude from Alaska as production there fell.

“In total, ton-miles of crude oil and products for all modes of transport have declined from [1.08 trillion] ton-miles in 1990 to about 0.88 trillion ton miles in 2008, an average rate of decline of 1.1%,” it said.

The report said that motor carriers, while highly important and versatile for petroleum’s final disposition in product deliveries, represented only about 4% of total ton-miles in 2008. “Motor carriers transport less than one-half of 1% of national crude oil movement, but about 7% of petroleum products,” it said.

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