Oil and gas market predictions ? a difficult art even before the accelerating shale revolution ? are facing a new set of unknowns arising from a regulatory void.

While the administration of the US president, Donald Trump, is expected to be good for the fossil fuel industry, it has also brought upheaval. Key questions surround the US pipeline industry, and how they are resolved will have a signi cant impact on huge new shale developments, the US gas market, and percolate out into the global scene.

For much of 2016, energy watchers could not have missed the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, which often dominated the domestic news. The line runs from the Bakken oil elds in western North Dakota to southern Illinois and it became the focus of a worldwide protest movement because of potential waterway spills and the impact on Native American burial grounds. While protestors had victories throughout 2016, with the project being signi cantly delayed, the surprise election of Trump quickly led to an Executive Order from the new administration that pushed the project through.

Now, finally, the pipeline is to begin interstate crude oil delivery on May 14, and is already having an impact. In one prominent example, the large east coast refiner, Philadelphia Energy Solutions Inc. (PES), is almost entirely stopping the significant quantities of Bakken crude they have received by rail for the past few years. With Dakota Access in operation, it will be more economical for Bakken supplies to ow south and onward to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Before this development, PES had been taking the rough equivalent of 75,000 barrels/day by rail, and up to three times as much between 2013 and 2015. 

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