Vitol teams with Sunoco on Permian Basin pipeline build-out

NEW YORK Thu Feb 27, 2014 6:33pm EST

NEW YORK Feb 27 (Reuters) - Swiss oil trader Vitol is working with Sunoco Logistics Partners to expand pipeline capacity for shipping booming Permian Basin crude output to the Gulf Coast, growing its foothold in the West Texas supply chain.

The two companies formed a 50-50 venture called SunVit Pipelines in the third quarter last year to build a new crude oil pipeline from the Permian oil storage hub in Midland to Garden City, Texas, about 40 miles east, where it will connect into Sunoco's Permian Express 2 line, it said in an SEC filing. The venture had not previously been widely reported.

Sunoco also confirmed that it had successfully completed an open season in the fourth quarter for the Permian Express 2, which will carry some 200,000 barrels per day (bpd) from multiple areas in the Permian some 300 miles to the coast.

Permian Express 2 is due to begin operating in the second quarter of next year, Sunoco said. It said the SunVit line should begin running next year, without providing a date.

No further details were available on the SunVit line. Spokespeople for Sunoco and Vitol did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

They are part of a flush of investment in new oil pipelines and other infrastructure necessary to carry the unexpected boom in shale and unconventional oil production from places like North Dakota's Bakken and the Permian Basin.

The Permian may be a particularly attractive place to invest for traders, since Midland is already an established storage hub, though smaller than Cushing, Oklahoma, and pipelines offer the flexibility of shipping northeast to Cushing or south to the Gulf Coast refinery row.

For a list of other pipeline projects see:

Vitol's direct involvement also shows how privately owned foreign trading companies like Trafigura and Mercuria are racing to secure strategic assets in the U.S. oil supply chain, hoping they can take advantage of the dramatic volatility that has seized U.S. crude markets.

Through its co-owned master limited partnership firm Blueknight Energy Partners, Vitol already has access to substantial infrastructure in west Texas and Oklahoma.

Blueknight, which has 15 million barrels of crude and oil product storage and 1,264 miles of pipeline, also operates and maintains a Vitol crude oil terminal in Midland under a five-year deal running until 2017, according to its SEC filings. The filing provided no further details on the terminal.

In September, BlueKnight began running the 150,000 barrels per day Pecos River crude oil pipeline that carries Permian Basin crude to Magellan Midstream Partners' reversed Longhorn pipeline moving oil Gulf Coast refineries. It is considering extending the line, which it operates with a 30 percent ownership stake, into New Mexico.

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