Excelerate holds open house on LNG plant in Port Lavaca (Video)

By by Dianna Wray - DWRAY@VICAD.COM
Dec. 13, 2012 at 6:13 a.m.
Updated Dec. 14, 2012 at 6:14 a.m.

PORT LAVACA - Excelerate Energy has taken another step toward building a liquefied natural gas terminal in Port Lavaca.

Company officials held an open house at the Bauer Community Center on Thursday as part of the permitting process with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Denise Madera, communications director for Excelerate, said.

"It's a way to let the public come ask questions and learn more about our project," Madera said.

Representatives from the company and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission were on hand to answer questions about the project and the permitting process.

The commission is conducting a pre-filing environmental review, and its attendance at the meeting was to encourage public input, Madera said.

The Houston-based company will make a $2.1 billion investment to build the Lavaca Bay LNG facility at the Calhoun Port Authority.

Excelerate officials hope to use the facility to ship liquefied natural gas around the world by 2017.

The United States was once a natural gas importer, but that changed with the oil and gas booms powered by plays like the Eagle Ford Shale.

Company officials were attracted to the port in Calhoun for a variety of reasons, but its proximity to the Eagle Ford Shale play was a factor in their decision, Jonathan Cook, chief operating officer for Excelerate Energy, said.

If Excelerate Energy is granted the required permits, the company will be one of the first in the country to export natural gas, Madera said.

The company is one of the first in the country to be granted a license to export liquefied natural gas. If the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approves the permit, construction on the project is slated to begin in 2014, with exporting beginning in 2017.

Cook said they are hoping to sell gas to countries in Asia and South America once the project is up and running.

About 30 people gathered in the community center for the first of two open house meetings Thursday.

"This is an intriguing project for the area," Phil Ellenberger, of Port Arthur, said. "We in Texas have an excess of natural gas, and this project gives us a way to sell it people we couldn't sell it to otherwise."

Local realtor Russell Cain expressed his enthusiasm about the project.

"It's a good project that's going to bring a lot of jobs to the area. It's a safe project, and the company is very safety oriented, and they have the public's best interest at heart," Cain said.

The prospect of jobs and more economic development also has residents excited. The project will bring more than 2,500 construction jobs and 181 permanent jobs to the area, Madera said.

"This project is a direct result of the Eagle Ford, and if it is permitted and completed in the next four years then you'll see lots of great jobs from the LNG project," Tony Holladay, board member with the Calhoun Port Authority, said.

Holladay noted that while he and the other board members are excited about the project, they are still cautious, recalling how plans for a similar project from another company fell through a few years ago.

"We're excited, but we're also cautious at this point," Holladay said.



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