Overview: An introduction to Mars pipelines’ expansion program
The Mars pipeline assets
Mars is a Gulf of Mexico based pipeline system that originates approximately 130 miles offshore in the deepwater Mississippi Canyon and terminates in salt dome caverns in Clovelly, Louisiana. Mars transports offshore crude oil from the Mississippi Canyon area, including the Olympus platform and the Medusa and Ursa pipelines, and from the Green Canyon and Walker Ridge areas via the Amberjack pipeline connection.
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Mars’ mainline capacity is a 54-mile segment from the connections to Ursa and Medusa at the West Delta to the connection with the Amberjack pipeline at Fourchon, Louisiana. The capacity of the pipeline is 400 thousand barrels per day of crude oil. Due to Mars’ existing connections to the Medusa, Ursa, and Amberjack pipelines, Mars is strategically positioned to transport crude oil produced in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico to salt dome caverns in Clovelly, Louisiana which are major trading hubs. The salt caverns are created by drilling wells into massive salt domes and injecting them with freshwater to dissolve the salts. The dissolved salt is then pumped back and either piped several miles offshore or re-injected into disposal wells.
Expansion program in Mars pipeline
In February, 2014, Mars completed a pipeline expansion project. It constructed a 41-mile pipeline that connects the new Olympus platform to Mars’ existing pipeline at the West Delta 143 platform. The Olympus platform accesses the deepwater South Deimos, West Boreas, and Mars fields. Mars also entered into long-term lease agreements with certain producers that include a guaranteed return to Mars. The annual transportation rate is periodically adjusted to achieve a pre-determined rate of return. The new pipeline will allow Mars to gain additional connections from third-party pipelines without significant capital expenditures.
Following the completion of the initial public offering (or IPO) process, Shell Midstream Partners is expected to operate as a master limited partnership (or MLP) in the midstream oil and gas pipeline industry. Royal Dutch Shell (RDS-A), through its subsidiary Shell Pipeline Company L.P. (SPLC) will be the general partner of the company. Other midstream operators in the crude oil and refined products pipeline business include Sunoco Logistics Partners (SXL), Enterprise Products Partners (EPD), and Plains All American Pipeline (PAA). These are components of the Alerian MLP ETF (AMLP). RDS-A is a component of the Vanguard Europe Pacific ETF (VEA).