Prioritize Corpus Christi Ship Channel Project


By Ryan Sitton

Whether you realize it or not, you are touched by the energy industry. We all are. Crude oil and natural gas can be used to power our electric grid, heat our homes, and can be refined into thousands of products like your contact lenses, car components, kid’s backpack, hearing aids, clothes, dish soap and even your allergy medication.

But it doesn’t stop there. Other countries need power and products, too, and there’s no better place to get it than the United States. We need to invest in our energy transportation infrastructure to realize enormous energy opportunities – that means ports and pipelines.

Corpus Christi is the No. 1 port for crude oil exports from the United States. Right now, multiple pipelines are being planned to bring product from the Permian Basin to the Port of Corpus Christi and billions of dollars are being invested in petrochemical facilities along the Gulf Coast.

The opportunity here is unbelievable. Let me give you some important statistics:

The U.S. is producing nearly as much oil as it did at its peak in 1970. Domestic oil production is now pushing 9.5 million barrels per day and increasing at a rate faster than it did during the oil boom from 2011–2014.

The EIA predicts U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports will increase from 1.4 Bcf/d at the end of 2016 to 9.5 Bcf/d by the end of 2019. This American energy is reaching countries like Mexico, India and South Korea.

Economists are predicting the U.S. will be a global leader in energy exports by 2022. I wouldn’t be surprised if we got there sooner.

And, the oil and gas industry in Texas accounts for about 40 percent of the Texas economy as well as nearly 3.8 million jobs. Oil exports will lead to 30,000 additional jobs in Corpus Christi alone.

With all of this monumental growth, we must make investments in pipelines and Corpus Christi ship channel so that as production rises, we have the ability to safely and efficiently move those products around the globe.

Just a few months ago, the largest tanker to ever enter a U.S. Gulf port docked at the port of Corpus Christi and, at nearly 1,100 feet long and 200 feet wide, would have loaded 2.2 million barrels of oil to fill the world’s need for American energy, but the ship channel isn’t deep enough.

Unfortunately, the Port of Corpus Christi Authority (POCCA) has faced unnecessary regulatory roadblocks to its Ship Channel Improvement Project. It’s time to cut through the red tape and get this project done.

Since 1990, POCCA has worked on the Corpus Christi Ship Channel Improvement Project, which would deepen the 36-mile ship channel to 52 feet (MLT) Mean Low Tide from the current 45 feet MLT and allow more million-barrel supertankers to load.

The project has been authorized by Congress three times, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Office of Management and Budget have slowly stripped the project from the budget each year, and instead funded four brand new deepening projects in Boston, Charleston, Tampa and Jacksonville. The majority of those have benefit-cost ratios below the Corpus Christi project and higher costs.

When complete, the Corpus Christi Ship Channel would add nearly $35 billion annually in goods value exports, provide $10 million in annual transportation cost savings, and help the port fulfill its potential to become the largest port for LNG exports by 2020.

As a successful small business owner and job creator, I can tell you in the real world, this project would have been funded long before now – cut and dry. Private industry would have prioritized the project based on the numbers and potential Return on Investment (ROI).

Instead, there’s been hold up after hold up of bureaucratic red tape, and I’m disappointed to see that the politics of Washington have held up a project that will have a huge return on investment for the U.S.

Now that the crude oil export ban has been lifted and production levels are near historic highs, we must act to ensure that our country is prepared to take advantage of the enormous energy opportunities in front of us.

I have expressed these thoughts in a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, urging them to move forward on this project, and offering to assist in any way.

As the first engineer in 50 years to serve on the state agency that oversees the oil and gas industry, I’m using my expertise to develop a framework for the exponential growth Texas is seeing in the energy industry, and that we will continue to see.

Given the priority of our current administration to become energy dominant, I am hopeful the Army Corps will realize the importance of this project to our country’s economic and national security.

I plan to stay engaged on this issue until this project is completed. If we don’t have critical energy infrastructure like ports and pipelines, we are going to strand domestic energy resources. That’s an unacceptable outcome that I’m committed to preventing. Our government must fulfill its obligation to create an environment in which we can move American- made products safely and responsibly around the world.