Offshore oil port troubles nothing new

Plans for the $1.8 billion Texas Offshore Port System may have hit a snag with two of the three partners pulling out, but this wouldn’t be the first time a large offshore oil terminal has had challenges.
As early as 1972 (at least one reader says even in 1962) a similar port was proposed for the same area off Freeport. Dubbed Seadock, the project would have been able to unload up to 2.4 million barrels per day from a location about 26 miles off the coast. As many as 13 companies were involved in the project at its height and the price tag ran from $650 million to $1.1 billion.
The project fell apart in 1977, however, when three of the largest firms involved, Gulf Oil, Exxon and Mobil, pulled out. Oil imports were waning at the time and federal officials made several demands the companies considered untenable, including that the terminal be opened to other shippers, according to past reports.
The State of Texas tried to keep the project alive a year later by creating the Texas Deepwater Port Authority, but a lack of industry interest led to a shelving of the project.
Seadock was proposed at the same time as the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, a.k.a. the LOOP. The LOOP faced the same regulatory hurdles but was smaller – with a capacity of 1.2 million barrels per day – and backing by a broader mix of mid-sized independent oil producers.
The LOOP was eventually built and now handles up to 12 percent of the country’s annual oil imports which move mainly through Louisiana refineries. In 2008 it unloaded its 8 billionth barrel.
Seadock was resurrected in 1990 under the name TexPort with many of the same parameters as the original plan, but cancelled a year later because of rising capital costs and the reluctance of many refiners to sign long-term commitments.
In 1993 it was reborn as Petroport and backed by engineering firm Parsons Brinkerhoff and a unit of the German firm Preussag AG, but it stalled for similar reasons.
Most recently Unocal — which is now part of Chevron — proposed a similar facility off the coast of Port Arthur. The Bulk Oil Offshore Transfer System would have had a capacity of about 1.2 million barrels per day and a $500 million price tag. The proposal was still alive as recently as 2004 but it died for lack of interest from refiners.

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