Enterprise Products begins exporting ethane from new Houston terminal

Houston-based Enterprise Products Partners on Wednesday began exporting from the world’s largest ethane export terminal along the Houston Ship Channel.

The first shipment of 265,000 barrels of ethane left the Morgan’s Point terminal from La Porte en route to Norway aboard the Marine Vessel JS Ineos Intrepid. Ineos is a Swiss petrochemical company with a large Houston-area presence.

Enterprise just finished building the ethane export terminal, which has two trains and two docks capable of loading about 200,000 barrels per day onto ships. Ethane is derived from natural gas and is used primarily to make the chemical ethylene, which is the primary building block of most plastics. Large supplies of natural gas from the U.S. shale boom have made ethane production here so abundant that Enterprise is exporting much of it to Europe, Asia and the developing world.

“Once we recognized that this country was going to produce more than it could consume, it became obvious to us that you needed to be positioned to export,” said Enterprise CEO Jim Teague in a recent interview.

The ethane supply for the new terminal comes mostly from Enterprise’s natural gas liquids processing and storage complex in Mont Belvieu, from where it’s transported through a new 18-mile pipeline that was completed in February. The Mont Belvieu complex also is connected to ethane production from the Marcellus and Utica Shale regions in the Northeast through the ATEX pipeline.