In 2015, the Port of Corpus Christi opened up for crude oil export and has since undergone an industrial boom. In just four years, it has become the fourth largest port in the United States. Oil and gas development has sparked an economic renaissance in the region, and a number of new port improvements are underway to ensure that it continues well into the future.
Located on the western Gulf of Mexico, the Port of Corpus Christi is a cost-effective and efficient location to support the import/export of a range of products. The Port features direct rail access via three Class One railroads and highway connectivity to US markets. A collection of high capacity pipelines transport natural gas, petroleum, and natural gas liquids from the shale fields in West and South Texas for processing and export. In addition to oil and gas, the Port also handles large turbine components for the expanding wind energy industry and dry bulk goods such as maize and corn.
These advantages are no secret to some of the world’s energy and industry leaders. In December 2018, the Port of Corpus Christi became the first port in Texas to export LNG after Cheniere Energy’s Corpus Christi Liquefaction facility successfully loaded the first LNG cargo for export to Europe. The Cheniere facility continues to expand and is expected to employ 800 permanent jobs when fully operational, and more than 4,000 jobs during peak construction. It is projected to have a $5 billion economic impact in the Coastal Bend region during a nine-year construction period and $17 billion for the State of Texas during that same timeframe. Gulf Coast Growth Ventures, a joint venture between ExxonMobil and SABIC, has started construction on a nearby ethane cracker plant that will process natural gas components into chemical and plastic products. Among the components produced will be 200 railroad cars a day of plastic capsules used to make plastic water bottles. GCGV anticipates the project will also create 600 permanent jobs and provide $50 billion of economic output in the first six years of operation. Beyond oil and gas, the region is supporting other industries including Steel Dynamics’ recent announcement for their largest steel mill yet, bringing $1.9 billion in capex and nearly 600 jobs to nearby Sinton.
In light of these successes, the Port of Corpus Christi is working on a Channel Improvement Project and other improvements to address several constraints. The inner harbor is 35 miles long, but at current depth and width is unable to accommodate larger ships such as Super VLCCs (large crude oil carriers). In addition, the Harbor Bridge at the main entry point poses a barrier, as many larger ships cannot pass beneath it. Projects are underway to expand the port depth to 74 feet and widen the channel, which will allow Super VLCCs to travel from the Gulf of Mexico into Harbor Island, and more than one ship will be able to be in a lane at a time, which will significantly improve the accessibility of the Port.
AEP is currently working with the Port and other customers to provide power at Harbor Island. This will not only support current projections but offer space for additional growth. Additionally, AEP Economic Development recently contributed $10,000 to a desalination study in the area, as new companies expanding into the region have large water requirements. Steel alone requires millions of gallons of water in the cooling process.
The future is bright for Corpus Christi, and there is no sign of slowing down. The Port improvements will support and encourage industrial expansion for the Corpus Christi region and solidify its importance for years to come.
Contact me to further discuss the improvements being made at the Port of Corpus Christi, or with other AEP Texas economic development questions.
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