Mapping the ownership of an oil pipeline

By Laurie Bennett

May 17, 2014 at 12:56pm

As North American oil production mounts, so do the accidents.

One of the latest, occurring Thursday in the Los Angeles area, demonstrates that the debate is not just about pipelines vs. rail cars, but about the need for heightened safety across the industry.

Reuters reported that thousands of gallons of crude oil spilled after a break in the above-ground Plains West Coast pipeline.

We recently wrote about the dangers of rail transport of crude oil, a big investment interest of billionaire Warren Buffett.

Today we track the ownership of the pipeline in California. We’ve drawn a convoluted map, showing investors in the investors in the investors in Plains.

The pipeline is run by Plains All American Pipeline LP, which appears at the bottom of the map. Plains All American GP, above it, is the general partner, which is owned by Plains GP Holdings LP.

(Goldman Sachs is a stakeholder. Microsoft co-founder is a former investor.) The general partner of the holding company is PAA GP Holdings LLC.

The morass of corporate entities is not something these companies try to hide. Indeed, it’s illustrated in the Plains GP Holdings’ most recent annual report, with the schematic below.

Plains ownership schematic

Everything clear now?

Results of all this obfuscation: Owners are more difficult to track, directors are more difficult to unseat, and lawsuits are more complex and costly.

An ideal setup for an industry likely to encounter an increase in litigation and regulatory agency crackdowns.

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The relationship map to the left is interactive.
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