Take It to the Limit - Permian Growth To Test Capacity of Corpus Christi's Crude Infrastructure

Rising crude oil production in the Permian and the desire of many producers to get that oil to refineries and marine terminals in Corpus Christi has spurred interest in developing more than 1 million barrels/day (MMb/d) of new Permian-to-Corpus pipeline capacity by 2019. That raises the question of whether the Sparkling City by the Sea is prepared to receive and store all that crude — plus oil from the rebounding Eagle Ford play — and either refine it or load it onto ships. Today we begin a blog series on the potential flood of crude oil from the Permian’s Delaware and Midland basins into South Texas’s largest port and refining center, and how refiners and midstream companies are planning to deal with it.

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The Shale Revolution has generated many headlines over the past 10 years, but the biggest story by far in 2017 has been the Permian. As we said in our recent Drill Down Report, With a Permian Well, They Cried More, More, More, the 70,000-square-mile region in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico offers the best production economics in the U.S., and crude production growth there (which didn’t miss a beat during the oil-price downturn of the past three years) will continue. The Permian’s Delaware, Midland and Central basins already contribute 2.3 MMb/d of the nation’s oil production — more than double the region’s 1.0 MMb/d output in 2010, and up 300 Mb/d in the past six months alone — and according to RBN’s Growth Scenario the Permian’s production is likely to rise by at least another 1.5 MMb/d over the next five years.

The Permian’s forecasted production growth already is having a ripple effect on crude oil infrastructure, not just within the play, where new gathering pipelines, storage and other assets are being built and planned, but hundreds of miles away. In Will It Go Round in Circles, we noted that three takeaway pipeline projects currently under construction will provide 610 Mb/d of incremental capacity out of the Permian, and that six or more takeaway projects in various stages of pre-construction development would add far more. These current and prospective projects would move crude to one of three destinations: the storage and distribution hub in Cushing, OK; Houston, the epicenter of the U.S. refining sector; or Corpus Christi, an important refining center in its own right and a popular send-off point for ships transporting Eagle Ford and Permian crude (and condensate) to ports in the U.S. and Canada and other export markets. (The photo below shows Occidental Petroleum’s new Ingleside Energy Center Terminal in the Corpus area, which started coming online in the fall of 2016.)

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