How Much More Can She Stand, Part 7 - New Permian Pipes Boost Crude Exports From Corpus Christi

In the first eight months of last year, the Corpus Christi area ranked third among its Gulf Coast brethren in crude oil export volumes — Houston was consistently #1 then, and Beaumont was the regular runner-up. Since September 2019, though, Corpus has been out front, often by a wide margin, and there’s good reason to believe it will stay ahead of the pack, at least for a while. What’s driving the South Texas port’s export-volume growth? First, there are three big new pipelines now moving crude from the Permian to Corpus: Cactus II, EPIC Crude and Gray Oak. Second, Corpus Christi and nearby Ingleside, TX, have a lot of existing storage and marine-dock capacity, and more is being developed. Today, we continue our review of crude export facilities with a look at three terminals along Corpus’s Inner Harbor.

U.S. crude oil demand and production are off from their highs, but crude exports from Gulf Coast marine terminals have held steady through this spring — hence our continued interest in how much these facilities are loading and how much more they could handle. We’ve already posted six episodes in our review of U.S. crude export infrastructure and utilization. Part 1 looked at the Seaway Freeport and Seaway Texas City terminals, both of which are part of Enterprise Products Partners and Enbridge’s broader Seaway Crude Pipeline (SCP) system. In Part 2, we reviewed the Houston Fuel Oil Terminal (HFOT), which is now owned by Energy Transfer, and the Seabrook Logistics Marine Terminal, which is jointly owned by Magellan Midstream Partners and LBT Tank Terminals. Part 3 examined Enterprise Hydrocarbon Terminal, or EHT, which is one of the largest energy-related marine terminals on the Gulf Coast, and Part 4 focused on the three crude export terminals in the Beaumont/Nederland, TX, area. In Part 5, we looked at the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), which is the only Gulf Coast terminal that can fully load 2-MMbbl Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs); LOOP is also a major crude import terminal. Then, last time, in Part 6, the spotlight shifted to Corpus Christi, the port closest to the Permian and Eagle Ford shale plays. In that blog, we reviewed the three newest facilities there: Eagle Ford Terminals, the EPIC Midstream Terminal, and Pin Oak Corpus Christi.

As we mentioned in Part 6, Corpus Christi is a refining center, with nearly 850 Mb/d of refinery capacity. Light crude oil that is piped from the Permian and the Eagle Ford to the Corpus Christi area is either run through one of the three refinery complexes there or loaded onto ships — mostly on Aframax- and Suezmax-class vessels, but also on smaller ships and, occasionally, on partially loaded VLCCs. Export volumes out of Corpus averaged about 500 Mb/d through 2018 and the first half of last year. Then, they took off last summer when the new Cactus II and EPIC pipelines from the Permian started coming online; the Gray Oak Pipeline, which entered commercial service on April 1, only added to the volumes headed Corpus’s way. According to RBN’s Crude Voyager report, crude exports from the Corpus/Ingleside area topped 1 MMb/d for the first time in September 2019, and have stayed within the 1-MMb/d-to-1.5-MMb/d range ever since.

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