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Negative oil prices to impact the Coastal Bend

Posted at 7:56 PM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 23:22:54-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Historically low crude oil prices will impact the Coastal Bend -- an area highly dependent on oil-related industries -- in a variety of ways.

“With these prices, we’re going to see the (oil exploration and production) companies reduce their drilling schedule, which will eventually reduce the amount of crude that is coming to the port," said Port of Corpus Christi Chief External Affairs Officer Omar Garcia.

The Port of Corpus Christi is the largest exporter of crude oil in the country, and Garcia says it set shipping records for the first quarter of the year. But with less oil flowing through the port, he and other leaders are considering changes.

“We are cognizant that these impacts will affect the port," he said. "In anticipation of this, we’ve looked at our capital budget and identified which projects we can delay or move down the road, if you will, until the market rebounds.”

Until that happens, an expert at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi says the Coastal Bend will continue to see low gas prices. Economics professor Jim Lee expects gasoline to bottom out at around a dollar per gallon. But unlike oil, he said gas prices will not go negative.

“We still have to factor in taxes and the shipping costs," Lee said. "So don’t expect you’re going to go to the gas station and pump gas for free.”

Low gas prices are hard on local refineries. Valero reported decreased production in its most recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Longtime oilmen said these are unprecedented times when it comes to oil prices.

“What has happened in this past month has never happened before," said Affiliated Bank Chairman Sam L. Susser.

Susser's family has been in the oil business in South Texas for 90 years. He sees a problem developing in the future if exploration and production companies decrease their drilling. He said that decreased supply for oil won't be able to meet the added demand once the pandemic ends.

“I am fearful that we will have a violent increase in energy prices in a year or two -- back to $100 -- $150 dollars per barrel of oil is possible.”