The recent shale oil boom has the United States producing crude in numbers it has not seen in years, however, this production is putting strain on the nation's oil infrastructure.
It would seem that the difficult part in increasing the country's energy independence has been taken care of as domestic production has hit historic highs. As of April 2013, production of crude oil within the U.S. hit 7.4 million barrels per day reaching levels that had not been seen since the early 1990's. The increase in oil production is positive news for the nation's economy, as more jobs are likely to be created as a result, and the country will not have to cater to the whims of foreign countries importing oil like the OPEC nations.
Strain on infrastructure
However, because of these historic highs, much of the country's oil infrastructure is being strained to accommodate the high influx of fuel. Typically, most of the country's oil supplies were transported through pipelines, but the vast amounts of crude now being produced are far more than these pipelines can handle. As a result, much of the country's crude oil supply is being transported through by rail.
Given how recent the shale boom has been, much of the national oil infrastructure is playing catch up. Many of the refineries in the country are found on the Gulf Coast, where oil production used to be far more prominent. But recent extraction efforts in new parts of the country, like the Bakken and Three Forks deposits in North Dakota, are making it hard to connect new supplies with old infrastructure.
Possibilities of new projects
Because of this strain on the country's existing oil network, there have been many plans for expansion. Projects like the Keystone XL pipeline look to improve transportation of oil throughout the country, with a 485-mile southern part of the pipeline that would connect Cushing, Oklahoma and Port Arthur, Texas is now 95 percent complete, according to Trib Live, but a northern part that would expand the infrastructure around Nebraska is still up for debate.
Benefits of the pipeline would extend beyond just improving asset transportation. According to the Washington Post, nearly one third of the natural gas that is produced in North Dakota is burnt off because of the lack of pipelines to bring it to market. This not only diminishes production of the fuel source, but is bad for the environment as well.
While it is important to have an ample supply of oil, it is almost just as important to be able to effectively transport it throughout to country so as to optimize the potential economic benefits.