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A Boomtown, Again
$13 Billion Investments for New Industry
Beaumont, the place oil became a viable source of energy in the beginning of the 20th-century, has realized those boomtown days again, and this year has brought more announced projects. Last year’s reported $10 billion in emerging investments has grown to more than $15 billion in 2007.
The latest billion-plus project was Eastman Chemical Company selecting Beaumont as the location for its $1.6 billion gasification plant. Eastman plans to buy the assets of the former plant owned by Terra Industries Inc. on Texas 347 and other acreage up to 400 acres.
Eastman vice president of developing technologies, Rick Witt, told the Beaumont Enterprise the project was “a right fit for Beaumont.”
The company intends to produce a gas from crude-oil refining leftovers called petroleum coke. The resulting gas will be cleansed of pollutants and the carbon dioxide drawn off and captured instead of emitted to the atmosphere. The cleansed gas will be used in making chemicals that are the building blocks in the plastics industry with a variety of uses in consumer products.
Witt said, “The Beaumont community has embraced Eastman every step of the way in bringing this exciting project to fruition – we couldn’t be more pleased and look forward to continuing and growing this successful partnership.”
Also, AGL Resources recently chose the Beaumont area for its $260 million natural gas storage facility, Golden Triangle Storage. The company’s first salt dome storage cavern is slated to begin operations in 2010, with a second cavern online in 2012. The project will consist of two underground salt dome storage caverns about a half-mile to a mile below the surface of the earth that will hold about 12 billion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to supply more than a quarter million Texas homes for a year. The storage project will help improve the existing and planned energy infrastructure in the region and further enhance the area’s importance as a national energy center.
Jim Rich, president of the Greater Beaumont Chamber of Commerce, said, “Golden Triangle Storage will be an important piece of our growing energy infrastructure, increasing our region’s status as an energy linchpin for the nation.” (see Positioned for BioEnergy article on page 10)
In the area, three companies are putting in liquid natural gas terminals – Golden Pass, Sempra and Cheniere. Each will cost about $1 billion.
Golden Pass vice president Tom Burger said his company chose this area for four reasons – one, the deep-water access, and two, the pipeline grid infrastructure that exists in the area; three is the market for natural gas with all the industry, petrochemical and power generation, and, four is the highly qualified contractors, suppliers and vendors.
Chicago Bridge & Iron Company (CBI), with a turnkey contract to build the more than $1 billion Golden Pass LNG Terminal on the Sabine-Neches Waterway, bought Island Park in Beaumont. The 75-acre island was never a park; for decades it was Pennsylvania Ironwork’s Shipyard and then Bethlehem Steel’s. CBI purchased the island from Trinity industries.
For its global strategy, CBI vice president of manufacturing, Lee Murphy, said “He looked all over the coastal waterway from Lake Charles to Baytown and there just wasn’t another appealing industrial site. Island Park was perfect – a quarter of a mile from Interstate 10. You won’t find this concentration of business – I used to say not anywhere else in the United States – now, I say not anywhere in the world.”
In the Beaumont area, expansion plans at Motiva Enterprises will double the size of its refinery, the largest refinery expansion in the United States in 30 years. The 290,000 barrels-per-day refinery will expand to 600,000 barrels per day, with 4,000 additional employees needed for five years.
The State of Texas does about $5 billion a year in major announced investments and the Motiva Refinery represents about a year’s worth of the state’s investments.
Total Petrochemicals will build a $1 billion Coker Unit. Valero, plans to expand its capacity to 3.3 million barrels per day at a cost of $1 billion, which includes improvements already underway. ExxonMobil, a major participant in the Golden Pass LNG project, also has commissioned a $350 million cogeneration and power network addition to the Beaumont refinery.
The fact that these petroleum industry expansions and more petroleum-maritime expansions are happening in the same area where the first great oil well in the world, the Anthony F. Lucas Gusher, blew in at Spindletop – seems strange but fitting.
The entrepreneurial spirit that drove wildcatter Anthony Lucas spurred other far-sighted men to start the great oil companies of our nation. What began at Spindletop is still present in the Beaumont area today. A century later, the goals of new entrepreneurs may be in other types of companies, but the ability to recognize and grasp opportunities still thrives here.
Beaumont is home to companies such as Conn’s (major appliances); Coburn Supply (plumbing fixtures); Jason’s Deli (restaurants); Texas Coffee Co. (coffee and tea); and Zummo Meat Co. (meat wholesaler).
Lamar University, through its colleges of Business and Engineering, is one of Texas’ vanguards for industries and small business. Russ Waddill, director of entrepreneurship at Lamar University, says that people are more inclined today than in the past to want to pursue their own interest in business.
The Internet has helped level the playing field for them and they have better access to capital
An economic development study showed the Beaumont area to be a hot location for any company –
Related to the energy industry, including bioenergy.
Advanced materials – composite plastics or other new products being researched at Lamar University.
Related to the highly developed health care industry; the greater Beaumont area is the major regional medical center east of Houston and west of New Orleans.
High quality back-office call centers appreciate the area’s lower cost of living and trained labor force.
Many of our successful entrepreneurs play in those fields because those are the area’s particular strengths.
With the amount of expansions and new businesses already scheduled in the greater Beaumont area, thousands of job opportunities are expected to be available now and in the future.
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