[Editor's note: A version of this story appears in the April 2021 issue of Midstream Business magazine.]
In the story of takeaway capacity for the Permian Basin, crude oil pipelines represent Papa Bear—too big, too much capacity for current production. Natural gas pipelines are Baby Bear—just right, i.e., capacity in sync with output (at least for the moment).
And Mama Bear? In this metaphor, the overworked mom is saddled with the “not enough” label. She has been laboring to overcome bottlenecks and transport hydrocarbons to market for so long that she deserves some hibernation time. At least until production ramps up enough to warrant another round of infrastructure overbuilding.
The cyclical nature of the oil and gas business could buttress the argument that “overbuild” is just another term for “ahead of its time.” What cannot be argued is that, in 2021, oil pipeline projects in service and on the way offer considerably more capacity than production can fill.