Enterprise, partners outline Texas offshore port system

Christopher E. Smith
Pipeline Editor

HOUSTON, Aug. 18 -- Enterprise Products Partners LP, Teppco Partners LP, and Oiltanking Holding Americas Inc. have formed a joint venture to design, construct, own, and operate a Texas offshore oil port and pipeline system to move waterborne oil to refining centers along the upper Texas Gulf Coast. Subject to regulatory approvals and permitting, the partners intend to have the system in service by fourth-quarter 2010.

The Texas Offshore Port System (TOPS) project would include an offshore port about 36 miles from Freeport, Tex., a subsea export pipeline landing near Freeport, two onshore storage facilities totaling about 5.1 million bbl of oil storage, and an onshore distribution system. Plans include a total of 160 miles of pipeline capable of moving 1.8 million b/d. The partners will be able to expand the system with construction of additional offshore facilities.

TOPS initial design calls for two single-point mooring buoys in about 115 ft of water capable of offloading 100,000 bbl/hr.

The TOPS pipeline system would extend from the offshore port to Freeport and extend 49 miles along the Texas Gulf Coast to a planned 3.9 million bbl oil storage facility in Texas City, Tex. From there, the pipeline would connect to existing oil pipeline systems serving Texas City and Houston Ship Channel refineries.

A separate but complementary component of TOPS involves construction of a 75-mile pipeline extending from Texas City to a 1.2-million bbl storage facility near Port Arthur, Tex. (bringing the system to its 5.1-million bbl storage capacity).

This storage facility would connect to area refineries and other facilities via pipeline and would also be able to deliver crude from existing Texas City docks and storage facilities to Port Arthur-Beaumont refineries.

Long-term supply contracts with Motiva Enterprises LLC and an affiliate of ExxonMobil Corp. total about 725,000 b/d and provide the financial underpinning for the project.

Enterprise ascribes demand for TOPS to planned refinery expansions along the upper Texas Gulf Coast expected to add about 425,000 b/d of capacity beginning in 2010, as well as expected increases in general ship traffic at onshore ports. Among current expansion projects is Motiva's Port Arthur refinery expansion, which will add 325,000 b/d of capacity in 2010 (OGJ, Apr. 28, 2008, p. 20) and Valero's 90,000 b/d expansion, also in Port Arthur, and expected to be complete by second-quarter 2011 (OGJ, Aug. 18, 2008, p.10).

Enterprise sees TOPS as offering an economic and safe alternative to increased lightering or ship channel transits as this increased demand is met. TOPS would be able to accommodate ultra large crude carriers (ULCCs) transporting as much as 3 million bbl of crude.

Affiliates of Enterprise, Teppco, and Oiltanking each have one third ownership in the joint venture and expect to invest about $600 million each in the project.

Petroport Inc., Corpus Christi, Tex., proposed an offshore crude port near Freeport in 1993 (OGJ, Sept. 27, 1993, p. 32), but this project never came to fruition. The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, 18 miles south of Grand Isle, La., in 110 ft of water uses three single-point mooring buoys and is the only US port currently capable of offloading ULCCs.

Contact Christopher E. Smith at chriss@ogjonline.com.

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