The dawn of offshore mega-terminals (And the Battle for Port Market Share)

The US is becoming a major exporter of oil, and it needs increasingly bigger and better infrastructure to keep the commodity flowing. As a result, the country is looking to build offshore shipping terminals big enough to handle the size and volume of a new generation of mega-tankers. There are several challenges the project will need to overcome before this titan can become a reality. The Port of Corpus Christi, a nearby conduit for oil exports, has filed a letter asking to delay Texas Gulf Terminals’ application.

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Oil production in the US has been booming, with crude oil exports alone increasing to 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd) so far in 2018. This is up dramatically from 2016, when the US exported less than 0.5 million bpd.

To maintain export growth, facilities are going to have to continue to grow quickly in size and scale to avoid reliance on smaller and cost-ineffective ships. This is particularly pressing given the rise in very large crude carriers (VLCCs). These colossal ships can be as big as 180,000 to 320,000 dead weight tonnes (DWT), and require a very deep berth.

In order to facilitate these offshore giants, and enable the US to continue to grow as an exporter, Texas Gulf Terminals, a subsidiary of Swiss commodities trading company Trafigura, has proposed the construction of an offshore mega-terminal. The terminal will sit approximately 12.7 nautical miles off the coast of Corpus Christi, Texas.

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