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Port of Corpus Christi updates plan for Crude Oil Storage at Harbor Island

The Port of Corpus Christi's plans for a crude oil storage terminal on Harbor Island have undergone a major change, one that could alter the face of the property.

The port has planned for a marine storage terminal at Harbor Island in Port Aransas, which is being done in partnership with Lone Star Ports LLC. The company is a joint venture between The Carlyle Group and The Berry Group, and is being designed to eventually load Very Large Crude Carriers capable of carrying up to 2 million barrels of crude oil.

But initial plans to have a pair of new docks that will be a part of the facility parallel to the ship channel have changed, according to information presented at a port commission meeting on Tuesday. Now, the plan is to dredge and cut into part of the port's Harbor Island property itself to move the docks farther away from the channel.

Louis Klusmeyer, the port's chief of design for engineering services, announced the design change as the commission discussed the award of a $1.24 million contract with Hudson Construction Consultants Ltd. for project management services related to the project. "Part of the contract is to get rid of the land so that we can put the ships in the water," he said.

The change is one that will provide fiscal savings for the project, Port CEO Sean Strawbridge said, as well as alleviate safety and aesthetic concerns from residents in Port Aransas. He said specific dollar amounts for how much the proposed dredging or dock construction would cost were unavailable, but said savings were expected.

"Believe it or not, that is more cost-effective than what was originally proposed — there's somewhere between a 20 percent and 40 percent cost savings," Strawbridge said. "Two, by pushing them back, it provides less opportunity for a collision and, three, from a visual standpoint, when you're sitting over in Port Aransas, having the vessels turn like that actually minimizes any visual impacts to the Marina District there." The setup is similar to how LNG carriers are handled at Cheniere's Corpus Christi Liquefaction facility, he added.

The initial proposal to have new docks parallel to the channel was more expensive than the proposed alternative configuration, officials said. That's because it would have required "thousands of feet of very high walls, which is time-consuming to construct and very expensive," Klusmeyer said. The area in question would be dredged down to 60 feet, officials said, and cut at a three-to-one slope, so no walls will be necessary.

Port commissioners expressed surprise at the proposed design change, but said it could go a long way to showing how the port is trying to alleviate concerns from Port Aransas residents. An opposition group, Port Aransas Conservancy, has been vocal about what impact the port's Harbor Island project could have on the city's marine tourism and fishing industry.

"This is an important point — it's the first time I've noticed it, the change," said Port Commissioner David Engel. "I think this a great point to use in our public presentations — that we have made this change, and why and how it basically impacts some of the concerns some of the Port Aransas people have. It probably does."

Port Aransas Mayor Charles Bujan declined to comment Tuesday afternoon, because he wanted to review it further.

John Donovan, with the Port Aransas Conservancy, said his group had previously expressed a number of concerns with the port's initial design to have the docks parallel to the channel. One of those was that it could cause VLCCs to be sucked away from the docks when other vessels pass, he said.

Its proximity to the ferry landing was also a concern, the group has said.

Strawbridge said on Tuesday that the new design addresses that issue. Still, while Donovan declined to comment until the conservancy reviewed the plans further, the group issued a statement via e-mail about the proposed change.

"Possibly shoving one of those behemoths right up against the ferry terminal started looking a bit dicey," the conservancy's statement read. "So now docking a VLCC will be as simple as pulling into a parking space at H-E-B. What could possibly go wrong?"

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From the April 2018 issue of Hydrocarbon Processing

 

 
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