Exxon Mobil Corp. is moving forward with plans to build the world’s largest ethane steam cracker plant on a 1,400-acre plot of bucolic farmland just north of Corpus Christi following a six-month battle that left the 20,000 residents of Portland divided.
What’s the future more Port or Resort?
The Texas Enterprise Fund awarded $6.4 million to Exxon and SABIC for the project, according to a statement released Wednesday. Abbott said the decision “is a tremendous win for not just San Patricio County, but for the entire state of Texas.” Exxon was looking at two sites in Louisiana and another in Victoria, Texas.
PORT ARANSAS to the east, on the Gulf of Mexico, stretches out, blue-green and sparkling. To the west and north, flounder and trout meander in a chain of bays. People flock here to fish. Others come to this beach town near Corpus Christi to kayak, parasail or admire the hundreds of bird species on the barrier island, which is deep into rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey damaged or destroyed 85 percent of the buildings here last year.
A perfect location, from a certain point of view, to put not one but two crude-oil export terminals for ships so big they’re called supertankers.
Those proposals are part of a historic buildout of oil and gas infrastructure in the United States as it becomes a top exporter of both fuels. Texas, home to the most prolific oilfield in the country, is at the epicenter. More than 80 plants, terminals, and other projects are in the works or planned up and down the state’s Gulf Coast, from Port Arthur to Brownsville, according to a Center for Public Integrity and Texas Tribune review of corporate plans. Companies have been laying enough pipeline in Texas in the last several years to stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific three times over, more than 8,000 miles in all.
- Oil and gas production in the U.S. has skyrocketed, particularly in the Permian Basin, most of which underlies West Texas. Producers there are employing new drilling technologies to meet — some would say prolong — the global demand for fossil fuels. When Congress lifted decades-old federal restrictions on crude exports at the end of 2015, a move that came on the heels of rule changes throwing open the doors for exports of natural gas, it set off a mad dash.
- Much of the export infrastructure is headed for just two regions: Houston — America’s oil capital — and Corpus Christi, where a port previously focused on oil imports is battling it out with Houston to be the country’s No. 1 location for moving crude to other nations. Each shipped out more than $7 billion in crude during the first nine months of the year, up from less than $1 billion two years earlier, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. Terminals once used to bring oil in are pushing it the other direction.
Oil and gas export growth mean jobs paying good wages. In Corpus Christi, it’s responsible for roughly 800 new positions so far with another 1,600 expected in the next four years, plus several thousand temporary jobs constructing all those facilities, according to an analysis by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Jim Lee.
- But it also intensifies a tragic quandary bedeviling the Gulf. Heavy industry there pumps out greenhouse gases warming the climate, upping the risks of powerful storms that, in turn, endanger those same facilities and everything around them. Harvey, which dumped more rain than any other U.S. storm on record, damaged hundreds of thousands of homes in Texas last year, killed at least 68 people and, particularly around Houston, sparked industrial spills, air pollution and explosions.
- Many of the proposed, under construction or recently built facilities along the Texas Gulf are in areas that felt Harvey’s bite. A Corpus Christi liquefied natural gas terminal — which just began operations and already has expansions planned — received permits to release up to 5.8 million tons of greenhouse gases each year, according to an analysis by the Environmental Integrity Project, a research and advocacy group. That’s the equivalent of nearly 1 ½ coal-fired power plants. Other parts of this new supply chain, which extends into the Louisiana side of the Gulf, will facilitate greenhouse gases pumped out in Asia, Europe and beyond.
“There is some irony or poetic justice, depending on your point of view, in having all these greenhouse-gas emitters being the most vulnerable to climate change, but there are a lot of people living around them, and it’s not such a good deal for them,” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project and a former head of civil enforcement at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The boom also sets up a clash over the future of the mid-Gulf, a less industrial and more tourism-focused part of the Texas coast than Houston. From the Port of Corpus Christi’s perspective, the new export business is a huge plus. “You’re going to see more development, more industry, more jobs,” said Eddie Martinez, the port’s business development representative, as he cruised in a boat along the ship channel in June, passing oil tankers and new projects.
But as the growth spills beyond the port’s industrial spine, it’s upending some communities. The idea of building crude-oil terminals in Port Aransas to serve ships extending the length of four football fields — requiring a much deeper ship channel in that area — has residents and business owners there up in arms.
- “Everyone I speak to says they’re against this,” said Neesy Tompkins, who moved to town in 1978 after falling in love with its natural beauty.
- This type of development boom on the coast isn’t unprecedented, but it hasn’t happened for decades, said Michael Webber, acting director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. World War II kicked off a building spree that extended into the 1950s, he said. This time around, soaring production is the trigger.
Cinnamon Shore, a successful new beach home community on Port Aransas, Mustang Island, has big development plans of its own, hoping to build 1000 more luxury beach homes in a new urbanism community design over the next twenty years following demand. That’s new for the Texas coast and popular with San Antonio and Austin residents both for vacation rentals and as a long-term investment.
Port Aransas, a city of about 4,000 full-time residents, runs on tourism. Fishing is a big part of that — it’s no accident the community spent a little over a decade around the turn of the last century named for a fish, the enormous tarpon. This is a place that calls itself the fishing capital of Texas, a spot where President Franklin D. Roosevelt once came to try his luck. Faced with hurricane-wrecked government facilities from the police station to the library, the city council decided to fix the marina first — to get boaters and their dollars back to town.
More than a century ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged a deepwater port at Harbor Island, partly within city limits. The Humble Oil and Refining Co. built an oil terminal there. But shippers preferred the Corpus Christi port, opened in 1926. These days, big ships pass through the waters alongside Port Aransas to get to Corpus Christi, farther inland. Offshore oil rigs are stored on Harbor Island, but the terminal and its leaking oil tanks are long gone and tourism is booming.
- A little more than a year after Hurricane Harvey delayed their plans, developers are moving forward with a $1.3 billion expansion of Cinnamon Shore, a master-planned luxury community in Port Aransas.
- Developers with Port Aransas-based Sea Oats Group held an October groundbreaking for Cinnamon Shore South, the second phase of development for the company along State Highway 361 on Mustang Island.
- Sea Oats Group announced plans for Cinnamon Shore South and a phase three project named Cinnamon Shore Bayside in summer 2017, but Hurricane Harvey tore through Port Aransas and surrounding communities on Aug. 25, 2017.
- Although the original Cinnamon Shore development received relatively light damage from the Category 4 storm compared to its neighbors, construction crews were focused on local rebuilding rather than new construction. Less than 14 months after Harvey, Cinnamon Shore South is back on track.
- “Cinnamon Shore North has been enormously successful, with more than $250 million in sales, and is nearly sold out,” Sea Oats Group CEO Jeff Lamkin said in a statement. “The beachfront development of Cinnamon Shore South will include luxury homes, town center residences, community pools, and plans for a boutique hotel. The long-term master plan will more than quadruple the size of the existing community.”
We’re seeing massive buildout, Export infrastructure, chemical infrastructure, tourism development, you name it.
Port or Resort? there’s more than enough demand for both!
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- Read More: Trump Talks Corpus Christi, Texas Port Needs
- Read More: What’s new at Cinnamon Shore
Source caller.com, texasbeachhomes.com