Build It, Because They’re Coming

Kinder Morgan, CSX, Tampa Port expand ethanol handling in Florida
By Kris Bevill | October 18, 2011

In response to growing demand for ethanol in Florida, the Tampa Port Authority, CSX Corp., and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP have agreed to invest in a joint intermodal expansion project that will allow for unit train delivery of ethanol to an off-loading yard at the Hooker’s Point terminal in the Port of Tampa. Richard Wainio, port director and chief executive said the first-of-its-kind intermodal project is a “win-win” for the parties involved, consumers and the environment. The project is expected to be complete by September 2012.

As part of the agreement, the Tampa Port Authority and CSX will build new rail track and supporting infrastructure to handle 100-car unit trains. CSX will transport ethanol from Midwest producers to Kinder Morgan’s Tampa Terminal where it will be offloaded within 24 hours and distributed to blending terminals and other markets via Kinder Morgan’s 2-mile Inter-Terminal Transfer pipeline.

Kinder Morgan will expand its ethanol receipt and distribution system within its port terminal and complete several modifications to its pipeline.  Changes will include the addition of ethanol-compatible pumps, the replacement of parts on the pipe, pumps and valves to ensure their compatibility with ethanol, the installation of an additive injection system to protect the pipe from ethanol, and new connections from the pipeline to all blend terminals. The port authority and CSX will invest more than $10.9 million for rail facility construction. Kinder Morgan is not releasing details of its financial investment in the project. “We’re happy to be a part of a project that improves ethanol transportation within the Port of Tampa and offers quick turnaround time to our customers who are working to meet Central Florida’s growing demand for ethanol,” said Tom Bannigan, Kinder Morgan’s products pipeline president in a statement following the project announcement.

Approximately 70 percent of all ethanol produced in the U.S. is moved by rail, with the other 30 percent being hauled by truck or barge. Of the ethanol moved by railcar, it is estimated that up to 35 percent is currently shipped by unit train. Logistics experts within the industry believe that unit trains will continue to increase in popularity in the coming years because they are efficient and cost effective. More terminals are expected to make modifications to handle unit trains as a result, particularly in the Southeast where access to blending terminals via train is lacking. 

—Kris Bevill