With the approval of a 30-year lease, Port Canaveral commissioners cleared the way recently for Vitol S.A. Inc. to build a fuel-tank farm on the north side of the Brevard County port.
"The fuel-tank farm is expected to be the single largest private investment in the history of Port Canaveral," said Stan Payne, the port's chief executive officer. "This project will yield economic benefits to the port, Brevard County, and for the entire economy of the state of Florida."
The lease covers a 30-acre site, with a 30-year term and two 10-year extension options.
Payne said he expects the tank farm will be built and operational "within no more than two years." An option also has been placed on property just west of the tank-farm site, Payne said, for a possible biodiesel fuel-production plant.
The tank farm envisioned by Vitol, a worldwide company with European roots, would be capable of storing as much as 3 million barrels of fuel. The project carries with it the promise of a 50-mile, underground fuel pipeline ending at Orlando International Airport. Most of the Orlando area's gasoline and other fuel currently comes through a pipeline from the Port of Tampa on the Gulf Coast.
Payne said the pipeline is "certainly in the plans," but there is no definite timetable for that part of the project. "The tank farm has to be built first," he said. "The pipeline is longer term."
After hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico last year and in 2004 threatened much of the state's fuel supply, Orlando International officials expressed renewed interest in having the ability to receive fuel from Florida's east coast as well as from the Tampa pipeline.
Port Canaveral, which began working on proposals for fuel storage about two years ago, chose Vitol last December over a competing proposal from Vecellio Group Inc. of West Palm Beach. Payne said he expects regular gasoline as well as jet fuel would be handled by the pipeline, to help diversify fuel supplies for the region and not just the airport.
A year ago, the capital investment required of Vitol for both the tank farm and pipeline was estimated to be $120 million. Payne said recently that the latest estimates he has heard range as high as $200 million.