US Gulf Coast crude export capacity

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Today’s blog is a guest post by Yuwen Li. He is a Data Analyst at ClipperData, specializing in domestic crude flows and U.S. crude exports. Yuwen holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Qingdao Technological University in China, and a M.S. in Financial Engineering from NYU. 

Yuwen Li

In the week ending June 22, US Gulf crude export loadings reached the highest on our records at 2.4 million barrels per day. Still, we believe that exports could increase well above this level, and have revised our Gulf Coast export capacity projection higher to 5 million barrels per day.

One potential limiting factor on exports is port congestion. But based on observations from our proprietary camera network set up along the US Gulf, we believe traffic in the waterways can significantly increase without becoming an issue. For this reason, we do not expect higher exports will cause shipping constraints.

Corpus Christi dominates in exports, with a capacity pegged at 1.6mn bpd. It has multiple facilities with the ability to export, including Oxy-Ingleside, the most prolific export facility in the US Gulf. Houston/Texas City is the next largest export port, with a capacity of at least 1.4mn bpd. This includes Seaway’s Texas City terminal’s ability to partially load a VLCC – something we saw for the first time late last week.

US Gulf crude export capacity ClipperData

Beaumont is also growing in prominence, with capacity at over 1mn bpd. St. James has the ability to add an additional 500,000 bpd of export capacity given three terminals, although this target is hard to achieve given strong domestic demand in the area keeping barrels from being exported. Freeport only has the Seaway terminal, but can reach 280,000 bpd in any given week.

Then last, but not least, is LOOP: The only current US Gulf facility that can load a full VLCC. Its export capacity of 300,000 bpd is not sustainable in consecutive weeks, however, given the time taken for one loading.

All these port capacities add up to a total of just over 5mn bpd. Given these lofty expectations, the viability of higher exports shifts to land-based flows. The bottleneck to higher US Gulf exports lies not with the export facilities, but with getting the crude to the loading docks in the first place.