New pipelines lengthening of terminals, digging under the sea dangerous for the environment: to satisfy the ambitions exporters of black gold of the United States, one of the most important ports of the country in terms of trade in crude oil has not skimped on its face-lift.
“The United States is experiencing a renaissance of energy unknown for the past 70 years,” enthuses Sean Strawbridge, dashing CEO of the port from 2015.
“The volumes of oil products must find an outlet. If we do not, someone else will,” says the man in his fifties. Exports from the port could rise to 2.7 million barrels per day once the works are completed, compared to about 700,000 today, according to him.
Energy is by far the main activity on the port. A far cry from the imagerie d’epinal containers, multi-colored, cranes, and heavy weights, these are the pipes large, the refineries burning and the huge storage tanks of liquid that sits in the aisles of the fourth largest port in the country by tonnage, but who argues with the one of Houston in first place on exports of crude.
Three new pipelines will be added soon to this landscape unattractive but very profitable. Epic, Cactus, and Grey Oak will be operational at the end of 2019, for a transport capacity of two million barrels extra per day.
These three ducts giants will connect the port to the two main reservoirs of shale oil in the country: the Eagle Ford, but especially the basin of permian, riding between the west Texas and New Mexico.
– Ships “stars” –
Fed for the massive investment of the two giants ExxonMobil and Chevron, the “permian” releases each day from 4.1 million barrels. It could rise to 4.5 million by five years, according to the american authorities, which compete with the most productive fields in the world.
The three pipelines will help to stem the problems of congestion that affect the basin, requiring the transport of crude by trucks and trains, a lot more expensive.
Throughout the Corpus Christi bay, a massive dredging project is also at work, of scraping the bottom of the water to over 16 metres deep, compared to 13 currently.
With these 3 extra meters, the ship “VLCC”, will be able to upload a few more of the barrels on the side — and less off using smaller ships — which is cheaper and faster. These ships are the “stars” of the industry, longer than two football fields, can carry two million barrels.
“The sinews of war, it is to be able to put more oil by ship,” says Khalid Muslih, the head of operations of terminals to Buckeye Partners. This group built two terminals at Corpus Christi and will enlarge its storage capacity for liquids.
With a daily production of 12 million barrels and consumption is stagnant, America is consistently greater than the three million barrels exported every day, a never-before-seen. Alléchée by the prospects, she now wants to sell more crude oil and refined products than it buys, which care a little its record trade deficit.
– “Slow death” –
However, what is seen by some as a historic opportunity is seen by others as a “destruction” announced.
At the mouth of Corpus Christi bay, the coastal town of Port Aransas, on the trail of the dredging program, is an estuary, through which pass many marine animals, such as crabs and shrimp.
“If you change the depth of the water, you change the whole cycle of these species,” alarm Dan Pecore, a member of the environmental organisation, Port Aransas Conservancy, although the port has put forward its concern to the preservation of nature.
Former oil industry, which was converted in the manufacture of boats, he was concerned about the “slow death” of the fish, and surf, while the port eyeing already on a dredging deeper yet at 23 metres.
The organization does not deny the argument of economic development in a city of over 300,000 inhabitants, where more than 76,000 direct and indirect jobs are linked to the port.
It favours off-shore infrastructure to accommodate the supertankers without denaturing the coast, in the image of what is done in Louisiana. However, the port battle this project, carried out by a competitor that would cut its revenue related to the traffic of vessels.
According to Dan Pecore, the forward flight is indicative of the chairmanship of Donald Trump. The billionaire has already shown little interest he had for the environment by removing a part of the regulation on the petroleum sector.
On the prospects of dredging, Mr. Trump said in October: “This will represent a huge advantage. You will be able to sell much more oil.”
“It can’t be a better relationship between Trump and the port”, says the ecologist.