Texas has two offshore terminals planned for servicing super tankers.
The race is on to build Texas’ first offshore oil-exporting terminal that could accommodate the world’s largest crude-carrying vessels.This should significantly increase exports, provided the trade war does not limit the purchase by some countries like China. To guard against that, the US refineries need to change their configuration to handle the light crude from shale wells. That would reduce US imports and make the US more self-sufficient. If they did both the US would become a more dominant energy producing country.
The global commodities trading firm Trafigura Group will announce Monday that it plans to build the Texas Gulf Terminals Project in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast from Corpus Christi. An offshore terminal would avoid port traffic and float in waters deep enough to handle the largest ships. Trafigura is unveiling the project almost three weeks after the Houston energy company Enterprise Products Partners said it plans to build an even larger offshore oil exporting terminal south of Galveston.
Corpus Christi and the Houston Ship Channel have led the nation in oil exports ever since Congress lifted the nation’s decades-old crude export ban at the end of 2015. The timing coincided with a boom in U.S. oil production, especially in West Texas’ Permian Basin, pushing crude volumes to record highs this summer. More of that oil is exported because domestic consumption remains relatively flat.
Just as there’s a rush to build pipelines hundreds of miles from the Permian to port and refining hubs near Houston and Corpus Christi, there’s also competition to construct oil exporting terminals to ship out the crude. The Port of Corpus Christi is expanding to handle the flood of oil, and several companies along the Houston Ship Channel are expanding terminals.
But the ports still aren’t able to handle the largest oil tankers, known as very large crude carriers, or VLCCs. Despite ongoing dredging efforts, the channels at Texas ports aren’t deep enough for the giant ships to leave the ports filled to capacity. Very large crude carriers can only fill up partially at Texas ports, and then receive the remaining oil volumes from another ship in deeper waters. It’s a more time-consuming and expensive process.
“The Texas Gulf Terminals Project will give U.S. crude oil producers, particularly Texas operators, safer, cleaner and more efficient access to very large crude carriers, ensuring that the economic and employment benefits of increasing domestic crude production can be fully realized right here at home,” said Corey Prologo, director of Texas Gulf Terminals Inc. and Trafigura.
The Swiss commodities trading firm is no stranger to U.S. oil exports. In early 2016, Trafigura chartered the ship for the first U.S. crude export shipment to Europe in more than 40 years, and Trafigura has continued as a leading exporter of crude and petroleum products from the Gulf Coast. Trafigura has offices in downtown Houston at the 5 Houston Center building.