First crude oil export cargo from Houston Ship Channel leaving this week

The Angelica Schulte docked in the Houston Ship Channel (Enterprise Products Partners)
The Angelica Schulte docked in the Houston Ship Channel (Enterprise Products Partners)

Although crude oil exports began last week, the first known crude export cargo from the Houston Ship Channel is expected to depart on Thursday evening or early Friday morning.

Houston-based Enterprise Products Partners said it began loading the Liberia-flagged Angelica Schulte tanker on Wednesday with 600,000 barrels of oil purchased by Switzerland-based Vitol, an international trading company that will market the oil in Europe.

Crude oil exports began at the very end of 2015 shortly after Congress voted to end the 40-year ban.

The first announced exports were made out of the Port of Corpus Christi last week when NuStar Energy transported oil sold by Houston-based ConocoPhillips to Vitol, which seems to be the big early buyer of crude exports. Enterprise’s cargo is the first announced export out of the Houston area, in this case from the Enterprise Hydrocarbon Terminal.

“Enterprise’s integrated system enabled us to quickly respond to customer demand for U.S. crude oil by international markets,” Enterprise CEO Jim Teague said in a prepared statement last week. The pipeline giant has declined interview requests last week and this week.

The Angelica Schulte tanker is owned and operated by Germany-based Bernhard Schulte.

Houston and Corpus Christi are expected to continue serving as some of the largest staging areas for crude exports, especially for oil from Texas’ Eagle Ford shale.

Previously, Enterprise had used its Texas terminals to export an ultralight oil called condensate. In summer of 2014, the Commerce Department permitted companies to ship condensate after minimal processing. The export ban didn’t apply to refined products.

The oil exports that began last week aren’t technically the first crude shipments in 40 years, since the ban had some exceptions, such as shipments to Canada and transactions involving some crude extracted in California or Alaska’s North Slope.