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Seaway pipeline is about ready to move oil out of Cushing

Enterprise Products Partners LP and Enbridge Inc. are almost finished with the reversal of the Seaway pipeline, which will be able to carry crude oil away from the glutted storage hub at Cushing.
BY JAY F. MARKS Published: May 4, 2012

“It is important to note, the lower prices refineries have paid for Oklahoma crude oil has not translated to lower gasoline prices in the state and has had no benefit on Oklahoma consumers.”

Turned around

Producers had been clamoring for the reversal of the Seaway pipeline to help move more oil out of Cushing, but former owner ConocoPhillips was not interested.

Enterprise bought a 50 percent interest in the pipeline in 2009, but the partnership didn't get any traction in its push to reverse the line until Canada-based Enbridge acquired ConocoPhillips' stake in November.

Enterprise spokesman Rick Rainey said the line will help move oil from emerging North American basins, including Canada.

“At the time we decided to reverse it, the flows were nonexistent,” he said.

Seaway began operation in 1976 to move crude oil and natural gas, Rainey said. It has changed direction a couple of times based on market demands, proving its flexibility.

He said the reversal process is not too complicated. Crude oil was purged from the pipeline in March, then the line was cleaned out with nitrogen. From there, much of the work is mechanical, as valves along the 500-mile pipeline are turned around to accommodate the flow of crude oil from north to south.

“It's not going to involve constructing anything or adding any new equipment,” Rainey said.

He said multiple crews worked on about 30 valves along the pipeline. It only took about a day to prepare each one for reversal.

Workers also had to modify the pipeline at Cushing to accommodate the flow of oil out of the storage hub.

Rainey said Enbridge also plans to build a new storage terminal near Houston with room for up to 6 million barrels of oil, giving the partnership access to all of the major Gulf Coast refineries.