Continued from Texas Gulf ports remaining energized in spite of slump in upstream oil sector (1 of 2)

Port Freeport

The Berth 7 container terminal at Port Freeport – on the Gulf 60 miles south of Houston – is active, with two post-Panamax cranes in place, including serving Mediterranean Shipping Co. vessels bringing in Chiquita bananas and handling other cargos under a long-term pact.

The port is advancing plans, including for adding cranes, at additional container/multipurpose berths; is looking to deepen channel areas, already at 45 feet, to federally authorized depths of 50 to 55 feet; and is eyeing benefits from enhanced road and rail links while maintaining Höegh Autoliners roll-on/roll-off business, handling projects for local industry expansions and serving as home to Freeport LNG’s liquefied natural gas terminal and regasification facility.

Phyllis Saathoff returned in April to Port Freeport as executive port director and chief executive officer. Prior to heading in 2012 to the Port of Houston Authority, where she most recently was chief people officer, Saathoff spent 20 years at Port Freeport, including as managing director and interim executive director. She succeeds recently retired Glenn Carlson at Port Freeport’s helm.

Indicative of heavylift cargo handled at Port Freeport for local plant construction projects, large pressure vessels are transferred from ship to barge
Indicative of heavylift cargo handled at Port Freeport for local plant construction projects, large pressure vessels are transferred from ship to barge

Calhoun Port Authority

Ninety miles farther down the coast, in Point Comfort, the Calhoun Port Authority is benefiting from the fact that, when oil prices go down, specialty chemicals do particularly well. Such products, along with crude oil and condensate, are expected to start moving by mid-2017 through a $30 million facility being developed on 15 leased acres by Pelorus Terminal Point Comfort LLC. The facility could contribute as many as 1 million tons to the port’s cargo throughput.

NST Point Comfort Holdings LLC, which already has a barge-loading facility at the port, is looking to increase its presence by moving crude oil, condensate and natural gas liquids by ship.

Recent project moves include units as long as 305 feet for expansion of the Point Comfort petrochemical plant of Formosa Plastics Corp., already the port’s leading mover at 2.5 million to 3 million tons of cargo a year. Also, the Calhoun authority is beginning permitting on a second dedicated liquid product dock with 10 loading arms.

A 1,270-ton, 305-foot-long, 30-foot-diameter ethylene fractionator destined for a nearby Formosa Plastics Corp. plant crosses Calhoun Port Authority docks
A 1,270-ton, 305-foot-long, 30-foot-diameter ethylene fractionator destined for a nearby Formosa Plastics Corp. plant crosses Calhoun Port Authority docks

Port Corpus Christi

About 150 miles north of Mexico, a straight 45-foot-deep channel shot from Gulf waters, Port Corpus Christi, which built its No. 5 U.S. port tonnage ranking as a hub for oil imports, is now exporting crude while attracting more than $40 billion in global investments in massive plants for making steel pipe, processing iron, manufacturing chemical resins and liquefying natural gas.

Recently completed infrastructure includes the first phase of the Nueces River Rail Yard, where a second phase is under way toward early 2017 completion. The $40 million facility, boosted by state and federal grants and investments by three Class I railroads and a short line, is to ultimately feature eight unit train sidings, each 8,000 feet long.

Meanwhile, partners in the $1 billion-plus project to replace the venerable 138-foot-high bridge over Corpus Christi Harbor with a modern 205-foot-high span are pleased that early this year the undertaking cleared its final federal hurdle. Also in the works is a wider, deeper channel, to reach 52-foot depth by early in the coming decade.

At Port Corpus Christi, a train carrying wind turbine components fills the main track parallel to ladder tracks at the first phase of the Nueces River Rail Yard
At Port Corpus Christi, a train carrying wind turbine components fills the main track parallel to ladder tracks at the first phase of the Nueces River Rail Yard

Port of Brownsville

Just north of the U.S.-Mexico border, the Port of Brownsville also is looking toward a deeper channel, with federal legislative approvals including a plan to deepen Brownsville’s 17-mile-long channel to 52 feet from 42 feet to satisfy demands of such existing customers as the Keppel AmFELS offshore shipyard as well as a trio of proposed LNG export facilities.

The port recently dedicated Cargo Dock No. 16 and added a second Terex Gottwald mobile harbor crane to help move cargos including more than 3 million tons of steel being transshipped annually into Mexico plus wind energy units destined for Rio Grande Valley installations.

Coming off a record 2015 in which it handled more than 10.1 million tons of cargo, the Port of Brownsville is this year advancing plans to build a new liquid cargo dock, rehabilitate an oil dock, reactivate its iconic grain elevator and begin construction of a new administrative building and entrance at Foust Road to expedite cargo movements.

Mobile harbor cranes work in tandem as a wind energy tower section is lifted into place at the Port of Brownsville’s recently dedicated Cargo Dock No. 16
Mobile harbor cranes work in tandem as a wind energy tower section is lifted into place at the Port of Brownsville’s recently dedicated Cargo Dock No. 16