LNG project: Big opportunity across Acadiana
Pelicans drifted over small jon boats carrying fishermen hoping to reel in flounder at the opening of Sabine Pass, the waterway that divides coastal Louisiana and Texas.
“When the tide’s in, they’ll be mopping them up,” engineer Tyler Peterson told a busload of Acadiana businessmen and women as they looked over the horizon.
Behind them, positioned on 1,000 acres in a vast marsh along the Creole Nature Trail in remote Cameron Parish, is a $20 billion project now underway that will become one of the largest natural gas terminals in the world.
With more than 16,000 jobs needed to be filled in the peak of its construction, Cheniere Energy Inc.’s Sabine Pass LNG Terminal is expected to have a major impact across Acadiana.
“The ripple effect is going to be huge,” said Randy McCollum, longtime oilfield worker and owner of Lafayette-based oil and gas consulting company Blue Sky Innovations. “Whether you think you are going to be impacted by this or not, you will be. If you aren’t impacted by the investment, your workforce will be.”
The terminal is located 3.7 nautical miles from open water along a channel 40 feet deep. Construction began in August 2012, and will continue for the next seven years, Jason French, director of government and public affairs for Cheniere Energy, said.
The first of four liquefied natural gas, or LNG, trains is scheduled to be completed in December 2015, just a few months after the expected completed widening of the Panama Canal.
What makes the terminal remarkable is not only the magnitude of the project, but the fact that there’s nothing else like it in the world, Peterson said.
“We’ve got a lot going on out there,” Peterson said. “We are the first bi-directional facility in the world.”
Bi-directional means that the terminal can liquefy and export natural gas, regasify natural gas from all over the world and export the product.
The project is being built in what many are calling an “energy revolution” as the domestic shale oil and gas industry continues to boom.
“There is no other way to describe what is happening,” French said. “Back in 2004, Alan Greenspan was the chairman of Federal Reserve. He told Congress that one of the biggest challenges facing the U.S. economy was a shortage of natural gas. It seems laughable today.”
“In less than 10 years time, we have come from being the poster child of global energy consumption to being poised to being the global energy super power right here in the U.S. and right here in the state of Louisiana,” French said.
The Picard Group, the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and Blue Sky Innovations recently took Acadiana professionals on a tour of the terminal.
“We thought, do we get the people of Acadiana excited about what’s going on? Because we’ve got all this invested in our backyard and we don’t have a piece of it,” McCollum said. “We don’t need all of it. We just need a piece.”
Cheniere wants Acadiana’s business. Through Bechtel Corp., the company is looking for contract work for roughly 50 different types of services from electrical testing to ice delivery.
Matt Roth of Lafayette said he was there to inquire about housing construction that is expected to come with the influx of jobs to the rural Cameron Parish community.
Cheniere has already contributed funds to build a new school not far from the terminal and spent $13 million to construct a new health care facility, Peterson said.
The company is also investing in educational workforce development to attract Louisiana high school students as future employees.
“We want the local talent we have here in South Louisiana and want to develop it as a sustainable employee base,” Peterson said.
French said Cheniere Energy believes that it is building the “single-largest industrial investment in the history of the United States.”
“And it is literally happening in your own backyard,” French said.
Several members of the Acadiana business community seem to agree.
“The Cheniere facility is a big part of the unprecedented manufacturing and industrial boom taking place across south Louisiana,” said Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jason El Koubi. “This project will create new job opportunities for all areas of our state — including Acadiana.”