The Biden administration has approved plans to build the nation’s largest oil export terminal off Texas’ Gulf Coast, which would add 2 million barrels a day to the states’ oil export capacity -United.
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The approval by the Maritime Administration of the Ministry of Transport 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-Sheikh, Egypt.
Earthworks, an environmental nonprofit, spotted the filing and public approval of the Seaport’s oil terminal on Tuesday.
“President Biden cannot lead the fight against climate change, protect public health, or advocate for environmental justice while allowing fossil fuel companies to lock in decades of fossil fuel extraction,” said Kelsey Crane, the group’s chief policy advocate, in a statement.
In its 94-page decision, the Maritime Administration wrote: “The construction and operation of the port is in the national interest as the project will benefit jobs, economic growth and resilience and security. American energy infrastructure. The port will provide a reliable source of crude oil to US allies in the event of a market disruption. »
The administration’s decision marked a major step forward for the export sector, which has grown rapidly since the United States began allowing crude sales overseas in 2015, the same year the states United helped broker the Paris climate accord that called for dramatic cuts in global fossil fuels. emissions.
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The offshore oil export terminal, the first to be approved of four proposed along the Texas Gulf Coast, will enable continued growth in U.S. shale oil production and global consumption, dealing a substantial setback to White House targets for drastic reductions in carbon emissions by the year 2030.
“President Biden has renewed America’s 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 oil processed at the seaport’s oil terminal would create greenhouse gas emissions equal to 233 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year (approximately 4% of total US emissions in 2020).
Approval of the Sea Port Oil Terminal, off Freeport, about 80km south of Galveston, has given its developers – Enterprise and Endbridge – a clear head start in the race to build the first new offshore export terminal in the Gulf. This was the agency’s first approval and followed a three-year review process.
James Coleman, who teaches energy law at Southern Methodist University in Texas, says the export terminal approval represents the “hands-off” approach the Biden administration has taken to oil infrastructure projects. since winning the White House on a promise to block pipeline expansion.
“They keep asking the oil industry to increase production and build more refineries. And yet they say we need to phase out fossil fuels,” Coleman said. “What they said seems contradictory.”
The Environmental Protection Agency released its endorsement of the project last month – also without a public announcement – prompting Gulf Coast activists to stage a protest in Washington, DC, which resulted in four arrests last week.
“I am extremely disappointed,” said Melanie Oldham, founder of Citizens for Clean Air and Clean Water in Brazoria County, where the project is proposed. “[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. While its October 7 approval of the new terminal highlighted concerns about climate change and environmental justice, it did not explain why the agency chose to approve the project.
“Last week they were in Egypt telling the world that now is the time for climate action. This week they are locking us in a climate-devastating monstrosity for at least a generation,” said Jeffrey Jacoby, deputy director of 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 4.8 million barrels of storage capacity. From there, two 36-inch undersea pipelines will head to 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 tankers.
At least 14 giant pumps with a combined 86,000 horsepower will be needed to transport the oil from Houston to Freeport and then 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 ferry oil from coastal depots to larger vessels waiting in deeper waters miles offshore.
It will handle more oil than the largest U.S. export terminal currently in operation, Enbridge-owned Moda Ingleside Crude Export Terminal in Texas, which transports up to 1.6 million barrels per day to the Port of Corpus Christi, the country’s leading port for oil exports.
“Compared to the facilities 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,” said one. Maritime Administration spokesperson in a statement.
The administration’s decision set out a series of final steps for the seaport’s oil terminal to receive a license and begin construction.
Plans for offshore oil sector development date back to the lifting of the oil export ban in December 2015, said Jordan Blum, managing editor at Hart Energy in Houston. But efforts lost momentum in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic caused global oil demand to plummet.
Now that demand has picked up and prices are soaring, the development of the export sector continues. Maritime Administration approval gives Sea Port Oil Terminal a clear lead among similar projects.
“There was basically this big race to build them,” Blum said. “Not all of these projects will get built, so being the first to act is really important.”
The Sea Port Oil Terminal hopes to start operations by the end of 2025. When it does, Blum said, it will initially attract business from less efficient onshore terminals in Houston and Corpus Christi. Over time, this will allow for growth in oil production from the Texas shale oil fields and beyond.
“That would allow for continued ramping up of production. It would encourage increased production, but it wouldn’t be like a switch,” Blum said.
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