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BEYOND THE STORM — Industry undeterred: Harvey hasn’t lessened area’s economic potential

Marvin L. Ivey scoffs at the notion that Hurricane Harvey could in any way keep Sempra LNG & Midstream from pushing through to completion its project of locating an LNG natural gas liquefaction facility on the Sabine-Neches Waterway.

“The storm didn’t create any impacts at the work site,” he said, which is off Highway 87 in the vicinity of Keith Lake, en route to Sabine Pass.

Ivey, senior project director for the Port Arthur Liquefaction Project, said the facility, projected for completion by, perhaps, 2024, is “suitable to handle a Category 5 or even an unusual event like Harvey.”

“We’re comfortable,” he said. “We were concerned about others.”

Big storms create concern during the construction phase of projects, he said, because there are large numbers of people working at the sites who might need to be evacuated. Sempra site construction won’t start until at least late 2019, he said. At peak construction, he said, Sempra may have up to 3,500 workers at the work site.

But after the project — its cost is projected in “the billions,” he said — is completed and the LNG facility is in operation, the permanent workforce there will number less than 200.

The killer storm seems to have dissuaded no industries from locating along the Sabine Neches Waterway or even in the region. Since last August, no one seems to have backed off announced projects and some have suggested new ones.

For example, when Brian Coffman, Motiva Enterprises’ new CEO, was introduced to the area at a Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce banquet on Jan. 24, he spoke in his keynote address about expansion within the company and possibly at the massive Motiva site in this city.

Oil prices, rising then and rising now, weren’t enough to keep Motiva satisfied, he said, and Motiva was weighing an expansion into petrochemicals, its first in North America.

Motiva, he seemed to suggest, was more than a fair-weather friend: In Port Arthur, the company benefited from “incredible” community support, strong economic returns, fair regulations and competitive business regulations.

Earlier this month, Motiva Enterprises signed memorandums of understanding with TechnipFMC and Honeywell UOP to study petrochemical projects, which would represent multi-billion dollar investments. Final decisions may come next year.

Golden Pass LNG, too, is progressing with plans for its plant here, a $10 billion project near Sabine Pass. The company has been public about encouraging the workforce here to take advantage of opportunities that will present themselves around the plant’s construction.

Valero hosted a public meeting in February to explain a proposed coker project and expansion at the Port Arthur plant, which would the second coker unit there after it is built, becoming operational by perhaps 2021. That’s an estimated $900 million project that will involve 1,500 construction jobs and 40 permanent jobs.

Total’s plans to build a new ethane steam cracker here seem to be moving ahead unabated. The $1.7 billion new cracker would start up in 2020 and involve some 1,500 construction jobs.

ExxonMobil confirmed in March consideration of a multi-billion plan to double its refining capacity, Reuters reported. If completed as considered, it might make the Beaumont refinery the nation’s largest in capacity, although Coffman has since been quoted as weighing more refinery expansion at Motiva.

Driving ExxonMobil’s decision is shale production in West Texas. If those investment plans pan out, the Beaumont plant may expand to process 850,000 barrels per day of crude oil. Reuters reported those plans from a transcript of an investors’ meeting.

Motiva, which is currently the nation’s largest plant, processes some 630,000 bpd.

This story appeared in Volume 4 of The Port Arthur News Profile, April 29, 2018

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