Processing plant near Yoakum; triples in size
March 14, 2012 at 7 p.m.
Updated March 14, 2012 at 10:15 p.m.
YOAKUM - The Enterprise Products gas transfer plant near Yoakum sometimes resembles a small city.
With hundreds of workers buzzing around and bright lights illuminating the plant at night, construction continues in anticipation of going fully on-line on May 1.
The human activity includes contractors - welders, electricians and laborers - working on the plant's infrastructure. As many as 500 construction workers a day have been on site at one time, making it more populated than the nearby community of Sweet Home.
Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative constructed an electrical substation nearby to help power the plant.
Also under construction across the highway from the main plant is a "slug catcher" facility where condensate will be collected then piped to the company's storage facility in Sealy.
"When the construction phase is over, there will be a lot less traffic," said Tony Martino, Victoria area operations manager for Enterprise Products.
Martino also pointed out that the cryogenic plant will only have 18 full-time employees on site once it opens.
"It's a completely automated plant and uses the latest in cutting edge technology," said Darryl Langhoff, plant superintendent.
Chosen for its central location along the Eagle Ford Shale play, the plant sits on about 100 acres between alternate U.S. Highway 77 and Farm-to-Market Road 318.
It was originally planned to handle 300 million cubic feet of natural gas a day. With the increase in activity along the Eagle Ford Shale, plans are now to triple the plant's capacity.
"There will now be three trains (processing units)," said Rick Rainey, Enterprise Products public relations director. "They will be built in segments. The first should go on-line May 1, the second in July and the third in 2013."
The plant is fed by a 36-inch pipeline and captures six to nine gallons of natural gas liquids per 1,000 cubic feet of gas, said Rainey.
The liquids recovered from the natural gas include ethane, propane and butane. They are recovered as a mix that will be piped to Enterprise's fractionation unit in Mont Belvieu.
After processing there, the product is transported to Enterprise's customers who sell the natural gas liquids to chemical plants along the Gulf Coast.
The new plant will join the company's seven existing natural gas processing plants in South Texas.
The plant's economic impact on Lavaca County and nearby Yoakum can be measured in dollars and cents.
Mary Gamboa, owner of the Sweet Home Store & Kitchen, said her business has felt the impact of the nearby construction project.
"We were on the verge of closing a couple of years ago, when they came in," said Gamboa. "They also let us take some meals over to the plant to sell and that helps.
"It's been a blessing," she said.
In addition to increases in sales tax revenue generated by the influx of workers who eat and buy fuel in the area, and full RV parks, property taxes get a boost, too.
"We expect that the natural gas processing facility and other related infrastructure, including pipelines, to contribute approximately $30 million in tax revenue to Lavaca County over the next 10 to 12 years," said Rainey.
In 2011, Lavaca County collected more than $2,500 in property tax from Enterprise, including $1,871.67 for the road and bridge fund and $728 for the Yoakum Hospital District.
The plant is also in the Yoakum school district. Tax figures were unavailable for the school district because of spring break.
In addition to economic impact, Martino wants to assure the plant's neighbors that it is a safe facility.
"Safety is our number one objective," he said.
"We have a lot of experience and have been operating safely for years. We have a solid track record," he said.
The plant is a win-win for the area and for the nation, Rainey explained.
"In addition to the long-term economic benefits, this operation further develops our domestic resources and makes for a healthy petrochemical industry," Rainey said. "It helps us get a step closer to energy independence."