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Crude Oil Price Differentials and Pipeline Infrastructure

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  • Shaun McRae

Abstract

Crude oil production in the United States increased by nearly 80 percent between 2008 and 2016, mostly in areas that were far from existing refining and pipeline infrastructure. The production increase led to substantial discounts for oil producers to reflect the high cost of alternative transportation methods. I show how the expansion of the crude oil pipeline network reduced oil price differentials, which fell from a mean state-level difference of $10 per barrel in 2011 to about $1 per barrel in 2016. Using data for the Permian Basin, I estimate that the elimination of pipeline constraints increased local prices by between $6 and $11 per barrel. Slightly less than 90 percent of this gain for oil producers was a transfer from existing oil refiners and shippers. Refiners did not pass on these higher costs to consumers in the form of higher gasoline prices.

Suggested Citation

  • Shaun McRae, 2017. "Crude Oil Price Differentials and Pipeline Infrastructure," NBER Working Papers 24170, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:24170
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Bergeaud, Antonin & Raimbault, Juste, 2020. "An empirical analysis of the spatial variability of fuel prices in the United States," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 131-143.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L71 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Primary Products and Construction - - - Mining, Extraction, and Refining: Hydrocarbon Fuels
    • L95 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Gas Utilities; Pipelines; Water Utilities
    • Q35 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Hydrocarbon Resources
    • Q41 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Demand and Supply; Prices

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