HOUSTON, March 28 (Reuters) - A proposed $1 billion deepwater oil-export project moved ahead on Thursday with U.S. private equity firm Carlyle Group agreeing to a 50-year lease on land near Corpus Christi, Texas, for a terminal.
Officials of Carlyle-backed Lone Star Ports LLC on Thursday agreed to lease 200 acres along the port of Corpus Christi where it has proposed a terminal and docks to load U.S. shale onto supertankers.
The project is one of two proposed for the Corpus Christi area and among eight deepwater ports planned along the U.S. Gulf Coast. They are vying to move shale from fields in South and West Texas to markets in Asia, Latin America and Europe.
Port of Corpus Christi Commission on Thursday also agreed to authorize the contract, said Sean Strawbridge, chief executive of the port. A dredging project that will increase the water depth to 54 feet from 47 feet in the channel will begin on Friday, he said.
"The coast desperately needs more capacity and infrastructure to handle the anticipated oil production growth," Strawbridge said.
A Texas court on Monday lifted a temporary injunction that had prevented Corpus Christi officials from entering into the contract, he said. Carlyle, which a spokesman said has not made a final investment decision on the project, has said it hopes to begin operations by October 2020.
Carlyle has pledged $400 million to continue to dredge the ship channel to a 75-foot depth to allow very large crude carriers, which carry up to 2 million barrels of crude, to dock at the terminal. That portion of the project faces an extended environmental review. (Reporting by Collin Eaton in Houston Editing by Chris Reese)