Bluewater Texas Terminals LLC has been given a thumb’s up to proceed with building a deepwater port offshore Corpus Christi in South Texas to expand Lower 48 oil exports overseas.

The Port of Corpus Christi Authority Commission said Wednesday a lease agreement and related pipeline easement was approved for the 50-50 joint venture between Houston-based Phillips 66 and global commodities trader Trafigura Group Pte. Ltd. Their partnership was launched earlier this year.

Permian Basin and Eagle Ford Shale oil supply would feed the terminal via pipelines connected to the planned multi-use Midway Terminal oil storage facility on the coast, near Taft. 

“Port Commission’s approval of this agreement with Bluewater Texas Terminals caps yet another major inflection point in the evolution of American energy exports, not only for the Port of Corpus Christi, but for the nation,” said Port CEO Sean Strawbridge. 

“Blue Water Texas Terminals will likely be the only offshore loading facility in Texas and certainly solidifies the Port of Corpus Christi’s position as the leading energy export gateway in the United States. The message to our global allies and trading partners is simple — Texas is open for business.”

The deepwater port, still in the permitting stage and not yet sanctioned, as designed could fully load very large crude carriers (VLCC) at production rates of up to 80,000 bbl an hour. Throughput capacities would allow up to 16 VLCCs a month with two single-point mooring buoys sited about 21 nautical miles (24 miles) from the entrance to the Corpus Christi Ship Channel.

The approved lease agreement for the offshore Corpus port defines the commercial terms to access existing pipeline corridors and port authority property for the project. The partners plan to lease 12 acres for the operations facility on Harbor Island in Port Aransas, which would include an office and equipment for inspection, monitoring and communications. 

Advancing the project “is another step forward in the Port of Corpus Christi’s mission to support infrastructure that will facilitate navigable commerce and thereby drive our nation’s economic recovery from the impacts of Covid-19,” said Port Chairman Charles W. Zahn.In early 2019, the U.S. Army Corps awarded its first contract for the Corpus Christi Ship Channel Improvement Project to deepen the port and expand the waterway for additional traffic. An export hub in Ingleside, in the northeast corner of the Corpus port, now is able to partially load VLCCs. The Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, or LOOP, offshore Port Fourchon, LA, is the only existing U.S. terminal that now may fully load a VLCC.