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North America’s massive demand for pipelines linking oil fields and refineries has pushed the once obscure 'midstream' sector to gain on the biggest industry players, according to a report by Deloitte.

Since the beginning of the shale production boom, Kinder Morgan and other companies that operate pipelines and other oil and gas infrastructure have boosted their capital spending from about $7 billion in 2006 to $26 billion last year.

And their market value, always dragging behind integrated oil companies and independent producers, has tripled its position within the U.S. oil and gas industry. By 2035, fitting the nation’s new resources with the right infrastructure could be a $200 billion venture, according to Deloitte.

As hydraulic fracturing enables companies to pump more hydrocarbons out of the ground, volumes of crude oil and natural gas liquids, processed and transported by midstream firms, are expected to grow from 14.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent in 2012 to 15.5 billion barrels in 2015, Fuelfix.com reports.

The production surge across the country may have even put a damper on exploration and production spending this year as producers see a weak case for pumping from areas without any connection to the plants that turn oil and gas into petroleum products.

In North Dakota’s oil-heavy Bakken Shale, energy companies had to flare off 35 percent of their natural gas production in 2011, according to the Energy Information Administration. And companies in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas are turning to the railways to ship out oil and gas, which has flooded the region’s pipeline and storage capacity, Deloitte reported.

Rail shipments grew four times their size from 2011 to 2012 and the oil and gas industry pushed its usage of oil delivery trucks by 38 percent. That’s one of the reasons the EIA projects the midstream sector’s massive growth — which could cannibalize rail shipments — won’t slow until the end of the decade.

All markets want affordable options and need access to low-cost crude oil so infrastructure investment now may determine tomorrow's winner's and losers, especially when it comes to what we're paying at the pump.