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CCI Corpus Christi's condensate export splitter project, geared towards finding a home outside of the US for rapidly growing North American production of ultra-light, sweet liquids, moved forward Monday after receiving federal environmental regulatory approval.

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With domestic refineries reaching their saturation point when it comes to the processing of light, sweet crude, US producers are looking for export outlets in order to keep prices high enough to fund exploration and production in unconventional plays such as Texas' Eagle Ford Shale.

CCI Corpus Christi, owned by merchant commodities firm Castleton Commodities International, still needs two further state environmental permits before construction can begin on Phase I of its planned 100,000 b/d facility, a spokeswoman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said Tuesday.

"There are two air permits under technical review," said TCEQ spokeswoman Andrea Morrow, adding that the project needs approval of its New Source Review (NSR) and Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit applications.

Both relate to air quality and permitted levels of emissions, she said, adding that there is no timeframe for when the approvals for the two outstanding permits will be given.

"A technical review varies tremendously based on the scope of the project," Morrow said, adding that the review is considered complete when the engineers are satisfied and sign off on it.

However, a 40-year ban on crude oil exports to most countries means potential exporters like CCI Corpus Christi need explicit export permission from the US Department of Commerce before they can ship out any liquids.

Two companies, oil and natural gas producer Pioneer Natural Resources and midstream giant Enterprise Products Partners, received approval during the summer to export a cargo each of processed condensate to Asia.

The port of Corpus Christi is located near the Eagle Ford Shale play, where production was up to 1.5 million b/d in July from 411,000 b/d in July 2013, according to data from Bentek Energy. Bentek Energy is a unit of Platts.

During Phase 1 of the project, CCI plans to build a condensate splitter with two 50,000 b/d splitter trains, as well as associated equipment.

The second phase of the project will include construction of a bulk terminal capable of exporting 500,000 b/d of not only condensate but diesel, jet fuel, naphtha, gasoil, and Y-grade liquids, according to the PSD permit application made with the TCEQ.

A Castleton spokeswoman was not available for comment Tuesday. Prior to January 2013, Castleton Commodities International LLC was known as Louis-Dreyfus Highbridge Energy.

--Janet McGurty,
--Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh,