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Editorial comment

Welcome to the December issue of World Pipelines. This month’s regional report aptly sums up 2020 with the title: ‘An unforgettable year’. Turn to p.12 to revisit the last 12 months, if you dare. In all seriousness, the report is an interesting look at the many waves that have hit the pipeline industry in the last year (falling oil prices, low energy demand, geopolitical conflict), as well as the tsunami that has been COVID-19. Then read the rest of the issue to be heartened by the resourcefulness, ingenuity and resolve present in the pipeline industry as it faces unprecedented challenges.

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This month’s issue includes part one of a two series article from ROSEN, discussing ways to convert raw inspection data into actionable information that can be interpreted to determine pipeline integrity. Using progressively refined data analysis techniques is key to ensuring greater safety for pipelines in the years ahead. Also in this issue, Cortez Subsea describes performing works for the first ever mechanically connected pipeline offshore Malaysia. The project utilised over 5000 mechanical connectors along the pipeline and in doing so made time savings and met energy-efficiency measures related to air pollutants from ships. The Wood article on p.60 outlines an artificial intelligence solution for subsea pipeline inspection: explaining how “disruptive technological advances are providing a platform for innovation in inspection technology, autonomous inspection vehicles and data management.” On p.26, T.D. Williamson provides a fascinating retrospective on how pipelines contributed to victory in WWII and how the challenges faced during wartime changed the company, and the pipeline industry, forever.

The year ahead holds much uncertainty for the sector and among the big questions are: how soon will COVID-19 be brought under control globally and when can we expect to return to a new normal?; which US (domestic or cross-border) pipeline projects will survive under a Biden presidency, and in particular, how will KXL fare?; how far will energy companies go in moving to meet their environmental targets and gradual transition to renewable sources?; what will funding look like for fossil fuel projects in the next 12 months?; how will the permitting process change next year?; and will Nord Stream 2 be completed? I could go on!

Much depends on the health of the whole sector. Various experts have weighed in on what 2021 will bring in terms of energy demand: the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that US crude oil production will remain near its current level through to the end of 2021 (the forecast reflects EIA’s expectations that annual global petroleum demand will not recover to pre-pandemic levels). The gradual recovery in global demand for petroleum contributes to EIA’s forecast of higher crude oil prices in 2021. EIA expects that the Brent crude oil price will increase from its 2020 average of US$41/bbl to US$47/bbl in 2021.

OPEC is rather pessimistic about demand in 2021 and has made downward revisions for all future periods, with the exception of 1Q21.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) cut its demand forecast for 2021 by 240 000 bpd, the first downward revision since April, when the full impact of COVID-19 on oil demand first became apparent. The agency predicts that by December 2021, global oil consumption will still be 2% lower than at the end of 2019.

World Pipelines will be here to see you through it all.

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