Surge of oil and gas flowing to Texas coastline triggers building boom, tensions
PORT ARANSAS – To the east, the Gulf of Mexico stretches out, blue-green and sparkling. To the west and north, flounder and trout meander in a chain of bays. People flock here to fish. Others come to this beach town near Corpus Christi to kayak, parasail or admire the hundreds of bird species on the barrier island, which is deep into rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey damaged or destroyed 85 percent of the buildings here last year.
A perfect location, from a certain point of view, to put not one but two crude-oil export terminals for ships so big they’re called supertankers.
Those proposals are part of a historic buildout of oil and gas infrastructure in the United States as it becomes a top exporter of both fuels. Texas, home to the most prolific oilfield in the country, is at the epicenter of the frenzy. More than 80 plants, terminals and other projects are in the works or planned up and down the state’s Gulf Coast, from Port Arthur to Brownsville, according to a Center for Public Integrity and Texas Tribune review of corporate plans. Companies have been laying enough pipeline in Texas in the last several years to stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific three times over, more than 8,000 miles in all.
Oil and gas production in the U.S. has skyrocketed, particularly in the Permian Basin, most of which underlies West Texas. Producers there are employing new drilling technologies to meet – some would say prolong – the global demand for fossil fuels. When Congress lifted decades-old federal restrictions on crude exports at the end of 2015, a move that came on the heels of rule changes throwing open the doors for exports of natural gas, it set off a mad dash. Companies want to get oil and gas from West Texas to the Gulf Coast and, from there, abroad.
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