Ringing in the New Year; Shipping out the Crude

By Claudia Davis, Associate

On New Year’s Eve we witnessed history as the first shipment of US crude and condensate to an overseas buyer set sail from Corpus Christi, TX. Less than two weeks since Congress lifted the over 40-year-old ban, ConocoPhillips sent light sweet crude oil via pipelines from their Eagle Ford leases to NuStar Energy’s Corpus Christi terminal, which was then loaded on a tanker destined for a refinery in Italy. Swiss trading house, Vitol Group, secured the cargo from ConocoPhillips.

The ban was a product of the 1973 oil embargo enacted by OPEC which caused the price of oil to spike, resulting in long lines at the gas pumps for consumers. Oil fields were maturing, the US had not yet fully developed horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, and our dependence on foreign crude grew. For 40 years domestic production was on the decline and the ban on overseas exports persisted, even through the energy crisis of the 1980’s.

But on the eve of 2016, the result of the ban’s demise was symbolized by an image of the first oil tanker to carry US crude overseas, the Theo T., as it slowly departed the Port of Corpus Christi.