Surging US oil and LNG exports are benefiting the Port of Corpus Christi and major clients Enbridge and Cheniere are expanding their activities.

Barry Parker | May 16, 2023

The Port of Corpus Christi’s annual Energy Luncheon, on 15 May, offered a lively update on developments impacting the oil and gas export arena. Coming at a time that US oil exports have surged – March 2023 saw a record 4.5 million barrels per day – the event offered perspectives from the port, as well as from two major customers Enbridge and Cheniere.

The session began with a virtual greeting from Mike Sommers, President and Chief Executive of the American Petroleum Institute (API). Sommers emphasized the geopolitical importance of oil exports, citing the port of Corpus Christi’s 2.3 million barrels per day of crude oil exports going to “Europeans in need, and other friends overseas”.

He also pointed to possible reforms that would speed up and streamline the oil permitting process, presently under discussion and negotiation in Washington, D.C., calling them “a step in the right direction”.

The CEO of the Port of Corpus Christi Sean Strawbridge, who also serves as Chair of the American Association of Port Authorities, or AAPA, introduced speakers Phil Anderson, Senior Vice President for Enbridge- operating a crude oil export terminal at Ingleside serving Suezmaxes and VLCCs, and Corey Grindal, Chief Operating Officer for Cheniere, a behemoth among LNG exporters, having switched from regas to liquefaction during the 2010s.

Grindal told the lunch gathering that Cheniere presently operates a facility at Corpus Christi, in addition to another at Sabine Pass, with a current capacity to export 15 million mt per year, or roughly 200-210 cargoes, and is undergoing an expansion that will expand that capacity by 10 million mt per year.

He mentioned that applications have been filed for another expansion (two trains) that would add an incremental 13 million tons of export capacity at Corpus Christi, and expansion is also underway at Sabine Pass. Emphasizing the geopolitical, and also environmental, themes, he said: “As long as the world continues to need it, we will continue to build facilities…helping our Allies… but to continue to make a cleaner world”.

When pressed by Strawbridge to look into the future, Grindal said that, compared to a present worldwide LNG export market of 400million mt per year, “we predict that by 2040, the market will be around 700 million mt per year”.

In talking about future plans for the Enbridge Ingleside Energy Center facility (EIEC), Anderson explained that: “In addition to the largest oil export facility in North America, in our plans down the road, we see NGL’s leaving the facility, we see ammonia- which is really the leader of hydrogen coming out of there in significant volumes. In discussing the multiple energy commodities that might be exported,” he said, “We see EIEC as the best point in North America for that to leave, to go to our Allies in Europe and really globally, to feed the world.”  He added, “With that location, we see that as the optimal place to do it all.”

Enbridge recently purchased the majority interest in a pipeline from the Permian Basin – the Grey Oak pipeline, where Enbridge partners with P66 – in explaining the rationale behind it, Anderson said, “At Enbridge, our strategy is really to link things together.”

Noting that crude oil exports continue to be strong, he also mentioned that Enbridge will now be increasing the capacity of that pipeline  by 200,000 barrels per day, a 20% increase.