Tech, Infrastructure Investments Are Critical for Our Energy Future

From The Front Lines
Innovation and an adaptive response will allow U.S. ports to quickly provide energy resources to Europe and improve America’s geopolitical energy position.
sean strawbridge

Over the past few years, the United States has emerged as the largest energy-producing nation on the planet. The growth of the U.S. energy sector and continued emphasis on investing in clean and renewable energy has positioned our seaports as the nation’s principal gateways to the global energy markets. And in this increasingly volatile world, where providing energy resources to our allies in Europe and Japan are a top geological priority, these gateways have become even more important.

At the Port of Corpus Christi, we are proud to marshal change while exporting valuable energy resources not only to the rest of the country but to the world. We have come to be known as the “Energy Port of the Americas” – a moniker that imbues us both with pride and responsibility as we continue to lead the way in moving energy products such as wind components, refined fuels and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Since Congress lifted the ban on crude exports in 2015 and production summarily soared in the Permian Basin, crude has been a significant part of our story on the Gulf Coast. But in seven short years, we have evolved, diversifying the energy commodities we transport throughout the world.

In July, the Port of Corpus Christi announced new quarterly and half-year tonnage records in our 100-year history. The port moved a record 46.4 million tons of goods in the second quarter of 2022 and 90.1 million tons for the first six months of the year; and 2022 is on pace to break the 2021 newsmaker of record-breaking 167 million tons of goods. While impressive, these figures are no accident. The port has been banging the drum for investments in maritime infrastructure for nearly 30 years, lobbying the federal government for funds to deepen and widen the Corpus Christi Ship Channel.

A chronicle of a time foretold, the port had strategically positioned itself to safely and efficiently handle the larger evolution of ships such as the Very Large Gas Carriers (VLGCs) and the Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs). That is, as energy exports increased, so too did the size of the vessels transporting energy commodities. The port’s history-making Channel Improvement Project, set to widen the channel to 930 feet and deepen it to 54 feet, is increasing the capacity for trade and maintaining energy security on a national level – cementing the United States as a global giant in energy production.

The Port of Corpus Christi is also one of the select few American ports that can accommodate some of the most advanced ships in the world, such as large high-tech LNG tanker carriers. At over 300 meters in length, these LNG tankers are technological marvels.

Often bound for our energy-starved allies in Europe as they wean themselves from more nefarious sources of energy such as Russia, they can load and carry millions of cubic feet of liquified natural gas and compressed energy before quickly returning to sea. They then swiftly traverse across oceans to meet energy demands all over the world. One vessel can carry enough gas to power 500,000 homes for six months.

In December 2018, the Port of Corpus Christi became the first Texas port to export LNG after Cheniere Energy’s Corpus Christi Liquefaction facility successfully loaded its first LNG cargo, bound for export to Europe. A $13 billion LNG export project will soon bring aggregate nominal LNG production capacity at our port to 13.5 million tonnes per annum.

As we continue to invest in our infrastructure to support the world’s growing energy demand, the Port of Corpus Christi remains steadfast in our commitment to protecting and preserving our environment.

In February, the port announced an agreement with industry for large-scale carbon capture and sequestration development. These projects will enable the port to pursue commercial carbon capture and sequestration (“CCS”) opportunities onsite.

The port also is working toward a renewable energy future and becoming a top green hydrogen hub. Industry experts are exploring cutting-edge technologies for the production, storage, transportation and export of hydrogen energy. As part of this initiative, partnerships are being developed to utilize wind and solar energy resources across Texas to power hydrogen production. In 2018, the Port of Corpus Christi was the first seaport in the WORLD to successfully switch to 100% renewable energy for its operations.

The work at the Port of Corpus Christi powers the country and the world. While we are proud of our role in the global energy marketplace, we are not complacent. We remain dedicated to continuing to ensure energy security for our future generations through technology and infrastructure while fully embracing all new green energy initiatives.

Sean Strawbridge is chief executive officer of the Port of Corpus Christi, the largest United States port in total revenue tonnage, a leading U.S. crude oil export gateway and a major economic engine for Texas and the nation.