For the first time in history, oil exports on the Texas coast have exceeded imports, the latest milestone in a proud, expanding list since America’s march toward energy dominance jumpstarted several years back via it’s a record-setting shale boom.
Per reports, the difference between oil export and import volumes in April was a mere 15,000 barrels per day (b/d). It grew to 470,000 b/d in May — and the gap appears to be widening.
Since July, there have been numerous announcements about upcoming crude oil export terminals on the Gulf Coast capable of fully loading very large crude carriers (VLCCs), which carry about 2 million barrels of crude oil.
Examples of these announcements include:
- Enterprise Products Partners, L.P., will develop a crude oil export terminal off the Texas coast capable of fully loading VLCCs. The offshore terminal will be attached to an 80-mile, 42-inch pipeline, capable of loading and exporting about 85,000 barrels per hour.
- Oiltaking, in partnership with Enbridge and Kinder Morgan, will build a crude oil storage terminal near Freeport, TX, with a loading terming about 30 miles offshore.
- Trafigura will construct an offshore crude export terminal 15 miles offshore from North Padre Island, near Corpus Christi, TX, with the capacity of 500,000 barrels of crude oil per day.
- Tallgrass Energy has a $2.5 billion plan to connect crude oil via pipeline from the Rockies and U.S. mid-continental regions to the Gulf Coast, in Louisiana, where it will connect with existing infrastructure and an offshore crude oil exporting facility.
- Flint Hills Resources will expand its Ingleside, TX, crude oil export facility by adding four crude oil storage tanks and 60,000-barrels-per-hour worth of loading capability. When completed, in October 2019, the facility will have loading capacity of 380,000 barrels per day and storage capacity of 4 million barrels.
The fact that all this capital is being invested in so many crude oil exporting facilities is game-changing news for the future of U.S. oil production and exports.
The U.S. currently exports about 3 million barrels of oil per day, all bound for higher-priced markets around the world. Total U.S. production is around 10.8 million barrels per day. In February, the U.S. Department of Energy said the U.S. is projected to become a net exporter of crude oil and natural gas by 2022. That will mark the first-time energy exports surpassed imports since 1957, during the Eisenhower Administration.
This is great news for the U.S. economy, its balance of trade and its global geopolitical position.
One hiccup: U.S. crude oil exports are becoming capped by limitations in port infrastructure and tanker availability, a constraint that should ease as more export projects like those above come online.
Which is why it’s key we don’t stand in our own way.
Take natural gas takeaway capacity, a fast-growing growing national issue. Trillions of cubic feet of natural gas — much of which is associated with crude oil production — are stranded in inland-producing hotbeds like the Permian, Denver-Julesburg, San Juan, Uintah and Piceance basins. More pipeline takeaway capacity is needed to bring that gas to market.
Tightening regulations on venting and flaring are also putting greater pressure on oil and gas producers to find new options for associated gas before viable wells shut in and crude oil production slows.
Likewise, we need to better address how to streamline water-use permits. Hydraulic fracturing has been instrumental in America’s energy renaissance, which is why anti- development NGOs have focused more of their attention and opposition on combating water usage in operations. Good news: Innovations continue to be utilized to address water usage, and we must keep them coming and deploy them while providing policymakers and the public with an accurate understanding of how water is used, recycled and disposed.
Finally, we need to ensure the U.S. remains competitive by ensuring our trade policies support our long-term ability to export to markets eager to take our products. We are now in a tremendous position to be a dominant energy player globally, perhaps the most dominant, with the proper regulatory actions.
That’s why it’s critical industry and government address the issues and policies that will enable America’s energy milestones to continue.
Jack Belcher is executive vice president for HBW Resources and consults energy and transportation clients on government relations, regulatory affairs, situational risk management, coalition building and stakeholder relations. He is also Managing Director of the National Ocean Policy Coalition.
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