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The Biden administration has approved plans to build the nation’s largest oil export terminal off the Texas Gulf Coast, which would add 2 million barrels a day to US oil export capacity.
The approval by the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration was filed in the federal register on Monday without any public announcement, a day after the conclusion of the annual United Nations climate conference in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt.
Earthworks, an environmental nonprofit, spotted the deposit and publicized approval of the Sea Port Oil Terminal on Tuesday.
“President Biden cannot lead the fight against climate change, protect public health or defend environmental justice while allowing fossil fuel companies to block decades of fossil fuel extraction,” the statement said in a statement. group’s senior political advocate, Kelsey Crane.
In its 94-page decision, the Maritime Administration wrote, “The construction and operation of the port is in the national interest because the project will benefit jobs, economic growth, and the resilience and security of U.S. energy infrastructure. The port will provide a reliable source of crude oil to U.S. allies in the event of a market disruption.”
The administration’s move marked a major step forward for the export sector, which has grown rapidly since the United States began allowing the sale of crude oil overseas in 2015, the same year the United States helped brokering the Paris climate accord that called for drastic reductions in global fossil fuel emissions.
The offshore oil export terminal, the first to be approved of four proposed along the Texas Gulf Coast, will enable continued growth in US shale oil production and global consumption, inflicting a substantial setback to the White House’s goals of drastic cuts in carbon emissions by the year 2030.
“President Biden has renewed US leadership in the fight against climate change,” the White House said ahead of the United Nations climate conference in Egypt this month. “The president is delivering on his day one promises, positioning the United States to meet our ambitious climate goals.”
In July, the Maritime Administration’s 890-page impact statement said that oil processed at the Sea Port Oil Terminal would create greenhouse gas emissions equal to 233 million tons of carbon dioxide annually (about 4 percent of total emissions). of the United States of 2020).
The approval of the Sea Port Oil Terminal, off the coast of Freeport, about 50 miles south of Galveston, has given its corporate developers – Enterprise and Endbridge – a clear lead in the race to build the first new offshore export terminal in the Gulf. It was the agency’s first approval and went through a three-year review process.
According to James Coleman, who teaches energy law at Southern Methodist University in Texas, the export terminal approval represents the “hands off” approach the Biden administration has taken to oil infrastructure projects since winning the White House with a promise to block pipeline expansions.
“They keep calling on the oil industry to expand its production and build more refineries. Yet they say we need to phase out fossil fuels,” Coleman said. “What they said seems contradictory.”
The Environmental Protection Agency issued its approval of the project last month — also without a public announcement — prompting Gulf Coast activists to stage a protest in Washington, D.C. that ended in four arrests last week.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” said Melanie Oldham, founder of Citizens for Clean Air and Clean Water in Brazoria County, where the project is being pitched. “[Transportation] Secretary Pete Buttigieg and President Biden have chosen not to be climate change leaders.”
The EPA did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Although the Oct. 7 approval of the new terminal outlined concerns about climate change and environmental justice, it didn’t explain why the agency decided to approve the project.
“Last week they were in Egypt telling the world that now is the time for climate action. This week they lock us into a monstrosity that destroys the climate for at least a generation,” said Jeffrey Jacoby, deputy director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment.
According to the Maritime Administration, the project will expand a Houston-area terminal operated by Enterprise and connect it to a new 140-acre onshore facility near Freeport with a storage capacity of 4.8 million barrels. From there, two 36-inch subsea pipelines will reach the new deep-water port, 30 miles offshore, where two 24-inch floating crude pipes will load it onto the world’s largest class of crude tankers.
At least 14 giant pumps with a combined 86,000 horsepower will be needed to move oil from Houston to Freeport and on to the offshore terminal.
The project will create 62 permanent jobs, plus up to 1,400 temporary construction jobs, according to the Maritime Administration.
The project aims to improve the efficiency of oil exports from the Texas coast, where smaller tankers currently transport oil from coastal deposits to larger vessels waiting in deeper waters, miles away.
Will process more oil than the largest U.S. export terminal currently in operation, Moda Ingleside Crude Export Terminal, owned by Enbridge in Texas, which moves up to 1.6 million barrels a day at the Port of Corpus Christi, the main port of the nation for oil exports.
“Compared to the structures and processes used today, this project will create a safer and more efficient mechanism for exporting oil and will play a key role in facilitating U.S. energy security,” a Maritime Administration spokesman said in a statement. Note.
The administration’s decision included a series of final steps for the Sea Port Oil Terminal to receive a license and begin construction.
Plans to develop the offshore oil sector date back to the lifting of the oil export ban in December 2015, said Jordan Blum, editorial director of Hart Energy in Houston. But efforts lost momentum in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic caused global oil demand to drop.
Now that demand has returned and prices are soaring, the development of the export sector is moving forward. The approval from the Maritime Administration gives the Sea Port Oil Terminal a clear lead among similar projects.
“There was essentially this big rush to build them,” Blum said. “Not all of these projects will come to fruition, so being first to move is really important.”
The Sea Port Oil Terminal hopes to begin operations by the end of 2025. When it does, Blum said, it will initially attract business from the less efficient onshore terminals in Houston and Corpus Christi. Over time, it will enable growth in oil production from shale oil fields in Texas and beyond.
“It would allow us to continue to increase production. It would encourage more production, but it wouldn’t be like a light switch,” Blum said.
Disclosure: Southern Methodist University has been a financial supporter of the Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial backers play no role in Tribune reporting. Find a complete list of them here.