The initial phase of Enterprise Products Partners LP’ Enterprise Crude Houston (Echo) storage terminal is complete and the facility is receiving deliveries of crude oil. Separately, the partnership said its sixth natural gas liquids (NGL) fractionator at Mont Belvieu, TX, has entered operation.

The first three Echo tanks total 750,000 bbl of storage capacity. The next phase of the terminal expansion includes the addition of up to 900,000 bbl of storage capacity, which could be in service as early as the first quarter of 2014. Enterprise said Echo could have up to 6 million bbl of crude oil storage capacity when completed

“Enterprise’s Echo facility is at the center of a historic and fundamental shift in our nation’s crude oil infrastructure by linking growing supplies of North American crude and condensate production with the U.S. Gulf Coast refining complex,” said Jim Teague, COO of Enterprise’s general partner. “Our investments in Echo, the recently completed Eagle Ford Shale pipeline and the Seaway Crude Oil pipeline will benefit both producers and consumers of crude oil while supporting energy security for our nation. Ultimately, Echo will provide pipeline and waterborne access to every major Gulf Coast refinery, representing more than 7 million b/d of capacity.”

Enterprise said the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex) is considering making Echo a regional pricing point for the U.S. Gulf Coast crude market. Through the Seaway crude oil pipeline, Echo will be connected to the storage hub in Cushing, OK, the Nymex benchmark pricing point for its West Texas Intermediate crude oil contract.

The sixth fractionator at Mont Belvieu is 85,000 b/d, increasing the partnership’s fractionation capacity at Mont Belvieu to 485,000 b/d.

“The sixth fractionator will facilitate the increasing NGL production from domestic shale plays, including the Eagle Ford and other basins in the Rocky Mountain and Midcontinent regions,” Enterprise said. “Rising NGL production from the shale plays continues to provide a cost advantage for the U.S. petrochemical industry which favors natural gas-derived feedstocks over imported crude oil-based derivatives.”

With the sixth fractionator online and supported by long-term contracts, Enterprise will reduce the volumes it has been diverting to its Louisiana fractionators. The sixth fractionator also will accommodate incremental volumes from Enterprise’s new gas processing facility in Lavaca County, TX (see Shale Daily, Sept. 11). The first two trains of the Yoakum facility have exceeded expectations and are processing 700 MMcf/d of inlet natural gas and extracting 90,000 b/d of mixed NGLs, Enterprise said.

“Production growth from domestic shale play basins continues to impress and create growth opportunities for Enterprise,” Teague said. “Fractionators seven and eight are already under construction at Mont Belvieu and are expected to increase total capacity at the facility to approximately 650,000 b/d when completed in the fourth quarter of 2013. At that time, our system-wide fractionation capacity is expected to exceed 1 million barrels per day.”