By Mike Scarcella
(Reuters) - Exxon and Canada-based crude pipeline operator Enbridge were sued in Illinois federal court on Tuesday over claims they barred a competitor from building a terminal to ship oil by barge from the Chicago area to refineries in the Midwest and Gulf of Mexico.
The antitrust lawsuit from energy infrastructure developer Ducere seeks more than $11 million in damages for work the Illinois company said it already paid for on the project and for lost future profits.
Exxon, Enbridge and their joint venture Mustang Pipe Line LLC excluded Ducere from the crude oil transportation market in Chicago by "refusing to allow it to build a terminal that would provide another avenue for transporting crude to refineries south of Chicago," the lawsuit said.
Representatives for Exxon and Enbridge did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A representative from Ducere declined to comment.
Ducere's complaint said it proposed in 2020 to build a terminal that would connect to Mustang's pipeline and allow Ducere to transport crude on barges. Ducere said Exxon owns 70% of Mustang, and Enbridge owns 30%.
The lawsuit said Mustang’s board declined in early 2023 to move forward with the terminal, reversing an earlier agreement between the companies.
It said the “group boycott” by Exxon, Enbridge and Mustang denying it access to Mustang's crude oil pipeline unlawfully restricted competition in the regional energy transportation market.
Ducere said shipping crude by barge on U.S. waterways is “vastly underutilized.” The proposed terminal would increase crude oil transportation capacity while reducing reliance on rail transport, the lawsuit said.
The case is Ducere LLC v. Enbridge (U.S.) Inc et al, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, No. 1:24-cv-01217.
(Reporting by Mike Scarcella; Editing by David Bario and Daniel Wallis)