LNG exports creating higher traffic from Texas ports

Bloomberg/Fuel Fix:
A boom in natural gas exports from the U.S. Gulf Coast is raising the prospect of traffic jams at one of America’s busiest ports.

Weather delays from fog and storms are nothing new at the Houston Ship Channel, which links the prolific oil and gas fields of Texas and Louisiana to the rest of the world. But as more cargoes of liquefied natural gas and petrochemicals head across the globe from newly built plants, the tanker bottlenecks are poised to get worse, according to Poten & Partners.

Sixteen months after the first cargo of gas from U.S. shale fields headed overseas, the nation is on the path to becoming a net exporter of the fuel for the first time in decades. The supply surge has created the need for more and bigger roads, pipelines and waterways, prompting a $5.3 billion expansion of the Panama Canal to accommodate the massive tankers used to haul LNG. And with about 20 export terminals already approved or proposed for the Gulf Coast, even more ships are on the way.

FROM THE CHRONICLE: Companies skip Ship Channel for less crowded, lower-cost ports

“A lot of waterways in the Gulf aren’t ready for prime time,” Gordon Shearer, a senior adviser at Poten in New York, said by phone. “Everything is going into a very concentrated strip of coastline.”

Between 1900 and 2010, Texas’ Galveston County -- located at the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel -- has been hit by eight hurricanes of Category 3 or stronger, and neighboring Chambers County has been pummeled by seven, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. The area around Galveston, New Orleans and the southern tip of Florida gets hit by more tropical systems than anywhere else in the U.S.
I think this overstates the potential traffic problems at the ports.  I used to sail regularly on Galveston Bay and recall the traffic caused by income oil imports.  The ship channel handled it well and now those ships will be replaced by export shipping.  Either way, there is two-way traffic in the channel.

Fog is nowhere like the problem it is in the US Northeast.  It usually is early morning fog that burns off fairly quickly.  While occasional storms can disrupt boat traffic people along the Gulf Coast have learned to handle it.  The thing about storms is they never last.  They blow through and then life goes on.

Ironically, the Galveston hurricane of 1900 led to the creation of the Houston ship channel.  The dredge material from the channel was used to raise the level of Galveston about 10 feet and the material was put behind a concrete seawall to protect the city.


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