Lone Star Ports, a customer of the Port of Corpus Christi Authority, and its partners are in the preliminary design phase for a liquid bulk dock terminal at Harbor Island to accommodate the demand for additional crude export capacity associated with the development of new pipelines from the Eagle Ford and Permian Basin shale plays to Corpus Christi.  This terminal is expected to be operational soon after completion of the federal deepening and widening of the outer reach of Corpus Christi Ship Channel (from the Gulf of Mexico to Harbor Island, from -47’ to -54’).  The terminal will include marine berths and necessary equipment to support loading of vessels.  The remaining tankage would be in offsite locations further inland.

PCCA USACE berth application
Lonestar TCEQ air permit application for landside elements,

Axis USACE application for pipeline

In 2015, the U.S. Congress lifted a decades-old ban on crude oil exports. Since that time, America’s export activities have skyrocketed, positioning the U.S. as a major global energy provider. Texas leads the way in domestic oil production, with the Permian Basin alone expected to produce more than 5 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2020. The development of a terminal on Harbor Island will help accommodate the additional 2.4M barrels per day that is on the way to the Port of Corpus Christi by way of three new pipelines, helping to bolster the US Gross Domestic Product and balance of trade in the process.

The applicable local, state, and federal permits will be obtained and relevant Nation Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) coordination will be performed.  The details of this NEPA coordination will not be defined until the scope and details of the project are fully defined.  However, the Port is working through a matrix of requirements to inform the process.  This is a working document that is being updated in real time as project details are defined.

Expected Permits for Harbor Island

The details of the terminal redevelopment at Harbor Island have not yet been fully defined.   The current working concept includes two berths and supporting infrastructure, such as surge tanks, vapor combustion units, marine loading arms associated with vessel loading operations, and an administration building.  The majority of storage tankage associated with the project is not envisioned to be located on Harbor Island property.

A VLCC is a Very Large Crude Carrier, capable of carrying up to 2 million barrels of cargo. Cargo ships are categorized by their size, specifically their length, width and weight. There is a steady trend toward larger, more efficient vessels in the world fleet.  Larger vessels mean fewer vessel trips, which is not only more economical for the commercial entities involved to move more crude in a single ship but also more resource efficient in terms of fuel consumed and emissions released during the transport process. 


VLCCs are among the most modern—and thus the safest—vessels in the world fleet.

The ban on crude export from the US was lifted under President Obama in 2015, and the US is now a net energy exporter.  The delivery of US energy to foreign markets—including that which leaves through the Port of Corpus Christi gateway—makes a meaningful contribution to our national Gross Domestic Product and to our balance of trade.

Creating a crude terminal at Harbor Island will accommodate the need to create more export capacity for Texas crude while ensuring full oversight of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality—including 100% control of air emissions—and the safety and security of protected harbor conditions. Locating the facility at Harbor Island rather than at a location further inside Corpus Christi Bay or the Inner Harbor of the Ship Channel reduces the impacts, such as vessel congestion and resource consumption, associated with longer vessel trips.  The proximity of Harbor Island to the Gulf of Mexico will also translate to a significant competitive advantage that will attract liquid bulk customers.

The construction and operation of the crude terminal will create jobs and yield direct economic benefit to the local community and the region.  The tenant’s improvements (e.g. oil storage tanks) on Port-owned property inside the city limits will be subject to city and school district ad valorem taxes. 

If/when the terminal can accommodate fully laden VLCCs, the demand for reverse lightering—offshore transfers from ship to ship to top off partially filled vessels—will be reduced, thus potentially reducing total vessel traffic and associated fuel consumption, emissions, and safety risks.

Further, conducting the proposed operations in safe harbor allows the use of additional controls to reduce potential for spills, such as booming off the vessel while transfer operations are occurring and staging appropriate equipment onshore to reduce response times.

There is a full project team and the technical team consists of members from Environmental, Engineering and Planning.  All team members are available for individual discussions or presentations and are eager to engage stakeholders in constructive dialogue.

Port A RAPPORT: August 12, 2019 at 5:30pm to be held at the Port Aransas Civic Center.

There will not be required a maneuvering or turning basin for the current layout being developed for Harbor Island.  With the development of the current concept to cut into the property to create the berths and associated slips, the maneuvering of the vessels can occur in front of the Terminal once fully dredged.

Yes.  Per navigational rules, a smaller vessel shall not impede the passage of a vessel which can safely navigate only within a narrow channel or fairway. Under present conditions, large freight vessels and recreational traffic co-exist in the Ship Channel, including in the location proposed for turning basin, and this should not changed under the proposed vessel operations.

No.  Partially laden VLCCs currently transit the existing 47’ channel without disrupting recreational use, and we do not expect this to change after the channel is deepened to -54’.  The Port works in coordination with Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to ensure that new developments do not negatively impact the existing operations.

No.  The cargo being transferred doesn’t represent a security or safety risk to merit proposing an exclusion zone in the Channel. 

The project site to the north/east of the TxDOT Ferry Landing; no interruption in the ferry service is expected. The Port will coordinate as needed with TxDOT during project planning.

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Ecological Considerations

The Port of Corpus Christi is dedicated to making sure all projects and operations are environmentally responsible. Our environmental policy is rooted in five key precepts that we use to evaluate our decisions and ensure that everything we do exemplifies environmental stewardship: air quality, water quality, soils and sediments, wildlife habitat, and environmental sustainability.

The Port was recently recognized by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for our commitment to the environment, receiving the prestigious 2018 Texas Environmental Award for Pollution Prevention for our efforts on various fronts, including: providing air monitoring at the bulk terminal, storm water quality improvements, landscape enhancements, development of a spill prevention program, dredge material reuse, green-energy use for 100 percent of our power needs, and an organization-wide recycling program. We are committed to bringing this standard to the design and operation of the terminal at Harbor Island, including incorporating best available technology for air emissions control and spill prevention.  We are also evaluating the use of on-site renewable energy generation to support terminal operations

No.  The Port’s property on Harbor Island on which the terminal is planned is only just over 250 acres, and the vast majority of that property is upland.  The Port is seeking a US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) permit for dock construction and—per the USACE’s “No Net Loss” policy—will provide habitat mitigation that upholds the standards of state and federal resource management agencies, if required.  Preliminary surveys indicate no impacts to special aquatic sites.

Spills are a risk for any type of vessel operating in navigable waterways.  However, the Port and Port Industries have made great strides in spill prevention and response over the years.  Environmental regulations have become extremely stringent, and the best practices to prevent spills have become more advanced.  Any new project that is developed in the Port will include the best available technology, such as loading arms and pumps that automatically shut off in the case of separation from the vessel being loaded. 

Additionally, at the Harbor Island Terminal, the deployment of spill containment booms during loading operations will be required as a best operating practice for this terminal.

In terms of the pipeline connections from tank storage areas to Harbor Island, leaks and spills resulting from modern pipelines are extremely rare because of the modern standards for construction and monitoring.

The property on Harbor Island that is now owned by the Port of Corpus Christi Authority was for many decades (since 1920’s) owned by private interests and used as a crude oil receiving, shipping and storage facility.  

The Port of Corpus Christi Authority purchased 75.126 acres of land from Fin-Tex Pipe Line Co. (Fina) in January 31, 1996.  This property included a number of oil storage tanks and one ship dock fronting on the Corpus Christi Ship Channel that had existed since the 1930’s.  As a condition of the sale to the Port of Corpus Christi Authority, Atofina agreed to remove the oil storage tanks and associated underground pipelines and to remediate the site to Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) standards for industrial facilities.  The oil storage tanks and associated underground pipelines were removed and cleanup action occurred.  On June 4, 2003, the RRC issued a letter of concurrence for Atofina’s Remediation Completion Report.   A deed recordation of the property’s past land use was filed with the County and on August 23, 2003, a “No Further Action” letter was submitted to Atofina by the RRC.  

The Port of Corpus Christi Authority acquired ownership of 214.168 acres of land from Koch Pipeline Company, L.P. (Koch) on August 20, 1996.  Koch acquired this property from Exxon a couple of years earlier but had never operated the terminal.  This property included a number of oil storage tanks and two small ship docks fronting on the Corpus Christi Ship Channel that had existed and been operated by Exxon since the 1930’s.  The oil storage tanks and associated underground pipelines were removed and cleanup action occurred.  A deed recordation of the property’s past land use was filed with the County and on January 5, 2015, a “No Further Action” letter was submitted to ExxonMobil by the RRC.

Former Exxon Restrictive Covenant

Former Fina Restrictive Covenant

The RRC is a signatory on both Restrictive Covenants and further specify within the document that “The RRC has determined that the Affected Properties currently meet standards for commercial/industrial use. Based on information contained in the reports identified above, the chemicals of concern pose no significant present or future risk to humans or the environment based on commercial/industrial use. With the filing of this document, the RRC does not require any further remediation of the Affected Properties as long as the Affected Properties are not put to residential use and/or the shallow groundwater is not used for any purpose other than monitoring.”

The Port of Corpus Christi Authority has begun demolition of the dilapidated structures.  In the process, the Port of Corpus Christi Authority has also contracted with a consultant, GHD, to further evaluate areas where historical contamination is exposed or become accessible following demolition of the structures.  Sampling of soil to determine if historical contamination has exceeded the cleanup levels previously approved by the RRC will occur and the results of which will be provided to the RRC for their approval.  Construction contracts include Technical Specification 02 61 14 – which relates to taking necessary precautions and utilizing best practices to ensure that the historical contamination at the site is properly contained onsite.

Corpus Christi Ship Channel Deepening Project: Approach to Assessing Project Impact

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Community Health and Quality of Life Considerations

The proposed activities on Harbor Island (transfer of crude) are akin to what was conducted at that location for around 70 years (roughly 1933-2003) without impacting the quality of life and tourist economy in Port Aransas. The design of the proposed terminal will include the best available (safest) technology on all fronts (storage tanks, spill containment, fire suppression, loading arms).

The Port has adopted the highest standards for environmental protection in the maritime industry, per our ISO 14001 compliant Environmental Management System and our Green Marine Certification; these standards will be reflected in the design and operation of the terminal. The Port, as the land owner and landlord for the terminal to be developed and operated by Lone Start Ports, will enforce the terms of the lease to hold Lone Start Ports to the Port’s standards for environmental protection.

The potential for effective spill containment is one of the criteria guiding evaluation of design alternatives for the placement and orientation of the docks.  The Port will deploy boom during all crude transfer operations.  Further, the loading arms that will be utilized at the terminal are extremely sophisticated and include emergency systems that automatically close valves and turn off pumps in case of separation from the vessel.

No.  It is important to distinguish the planned facility—ship docks and a crude transfer facility with minimal tankage—from a petro-chemical refinery, which processes or otherwise transforms petroleum-derived feedstock into the products that fuel and support our daily lives.  Per TCEQ regulations, 100% of the air emissions at the terminal must be controlled, either by way of combustion (no visible flare) or vapor capture.  Emissions capture technology (i.e., vapor recovery vs. vapor combustion) is not yet sufficient to support the proposed operation, but the facility will be designed to accommodate conversion to vapor recovery when technology allows.

The terminal at Harbor Island facility will be a state-of-the-art facility that will utilize the best available emissions control. The Coastal Bend is in attainment with federal air quality standards, and the Port of Corpus Christi Authority vehemently defends this status.  This terminal will be no different. 

The operation planned at Harbor Island—namely loading crude carriers—is exactly that being carried out safely on a daily basis at numerous other terminals around the shoreline of Corpus Christi Bay.  The principal difference is the technology incorporated into this project, from loading arms to storage tanks to fire suppression, will be state of the art and include best available safety technology.  The movement of vessels—including VLCCs—through the Corpus Christi Ship Channel to reach the terminal at Harbor Island is no different from the tanker movements that take place every day in the Ship Channel, except that these vessels will not need to travel across the interior of Corpus Christi Bay.

The Port is committed to working with the regulatory agencies and local academic institutions to evaluate potential ecological impacts from deepening a portion of the Ship Channel from -54’ to -75’.  As part of the US Army Corps of Engineers permitting process, we have modeled potential impacts to salinity as well as tidal amplitude and velocity (addressed in another response in these FAQs) to confirm that the deepening project will not impact the ecology of the bay system.  

Yes, the terminal will have positive direct and indirect economic impacts in Port Aransas.  Tenant’s improvements on Port-owned property inside the city limits will be subject to ad valorem taxes and will thus generate tax revenue for Port Aransas.  Likewise, because the Port is a governmental entity, the revenue earned by the Port through the lease agreement with Lone Star Ports and/or any other tenant at Harbor Island will be re-invested directly into new infrastructure and into the community at large.  Further, the salaries received by the individuals employed directly and indirectly to support the terminal will translate directly into additional economic activity in our community.

There was a crude terminal—including around 40 storage tanks—on Harbor Island from the early 1930s to the early 2000s.  This operation did not impede the rise of Port Aransas as a prime tourism destination, nor will the proposed terminal to do so.

This facility will include best available technology in every respect, including utilizing light shields, directional lighting, and/or other strategies for reducing night time light pollution to minimize impacts to wildlife and protect the nighttime experience of residents in Port Aransas.  Light output will be engineered specifically and efficiently for safe night operations.   

Modeling suggests that deepening the channel to -75’ from -54 will not impact—and may actually reduce—vessel wake impacts.  Deepening to -75 will have no impact on maximum bow waves, and drawdown will be reduced as a result of the deeper channel.  Under all scenarios, the energy/impact of vessel wakes is expected to be minor compared to the natural wind-wave climate.


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