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Is North America Facing a Pipeline Bubble?

With about a million active wells in the U.S. pumping more and more shale oil and gas, the fracking revolution of the last decade has spawned a boom in pipeline construction, initially to carry oil and gas to markets and regional hubs across America and more recently to export facilities.

Anticipation of burgeoning supplies in North America underpins an additional 110,000 miles (180,000 km) of current construction and proposals at a cost of $232.5 billion between 2017-2035. Whether this huge planned build in pipelines, to support a new industry with an uncertain lifespan, really makes economic sense is open to debate. 

“It’s hard to predict how long a fracked well will be productive, but a pipeline is built to last up to 50 years,” said Ted Nace, executive director of Global Energy Monitor, a network of fossil fuel industry trackers. 

Pipeline Developments 

In the South, there are at least 12 pipelines under construction and 26 in pre-construction development in Texas, accounting for about 10,000 miles (16,000 km) of pipe, designed primarily to overcome congestion capacity problems between the gushing Permian and refiners on the Gulf Coast.

This while burgeoning supplies of gas await completion of take-off pipes connecting to LNG export plants on the Gulf Coast and transit pipes destined to bring gas south to Mexico. Read more

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