Venture Global LNG Holds Open House
A team of Venture Global LNG (VG) representatives travelled to Port Sulphur last week to talk to residents and parish officials about their plans to build a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal on the west bank of the Mississippi River.
There was a good turnout at the community center for the public event, with residents asking questions about impacts to their property and job opportunities, and parish officials touting the benefits of attracting industrial development to the parish. There were stacks of slick fliers and large displays with detailed information about the project, and maps of the site and the pipelines to be built. Friendly VG employees stood by, eagerly answering any questions from attendees. VG, a Washington D.C. – based company, is in the early stages of the project, which includes holding public events and going through a lengthy Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permitting process. Their projected timeline is to begin construction in 2018, and open a fully operating facility in 2020. The public input process is underway for VG in Calcascieu Parish, where they are planning a similar project. The VG deal is the first for the Plaquemines Port and Harbor Terminal District (PPHTD) since executive director Sandy Sanders joined in 2012. The facility will be located on PPHTD property, and the port will receive revenue as a result of a lease agreement.
Landowners on whose property the VG pipelines will cross also seek to gain some financial benefit. One resident at the open house said that the pipelines will cross near, but not on his property, though at this time he said he didn’t see how that would hurt anything. Many of the properties mapped out already have oil and gas infrastructure. Sanders spoke very enthusiastically about the opportunity to work with a company planning to invest between $4 and $8 billion into a project located in the parish. Sanders called VG “Solid corporate citizens of the community,” who will treat the issues that matter to the community, such as coastal restoration and safety, as issues that also matter to them. Jobs will also bring a huge boon, Sanders said. VG predicts the project will employ about 3,000 workers in the two-step construction phase, and employ about 300 people in long-term direct jobs with an average annual salary of $70,000. Ancillary businesses also stand to benefit. VG plans to begin hiring in 2017.
Jimmy Staton, VG executive vice president, said that while the people they hire will need to have the right skill set, VG will hire “as many local folks as we can.” Staton said they are also working on providing training programs, and collaborating with local colleges and high schools. Hiring people who already live in the parish is beneficial for VG, Staton said, as they are setting up to build a long-term relationship and partnership with the community. In negotiations thus far, Staton said that the PPHTD has been “wonderful to work with,” and that from a business perceptive, having an active and strong local port is a “huge positive.” Allen “A.J.” Gibbs, president of the Crescent River Port Pilots Association, said that he sees the facility as a positive step for the parish’s economic development.
From a pilot’s perspective, Gibbs said that the marine safety and navigational aspects related to the LNG facility are manageable. There are challenges that come with any vessel more than 1,000 feet long, either empty or carrying heavy loads, Gibbs said, but he is confident that VG’s transportation needs can be accommodated safely. The industry is new to the United States. The first LNG export facility in the country, owned by Cheniere Energy and located along the Sabine Pass River in Cameron Parish, will begin initial operations at the end of this year. At least a dozen export facilities have started the application process in various parts of the country, including one proposed by Parallax for the east bank of Plaquemines Parish.
Other countries have been exporting LNG by bulk container since the 1960’s. And there are numerous LNG import facilities and storage sites across the U.S. – many located near large cities. Industry experts note that LNG is less toxic and combustible than many other substances, and that U.S. LNG plants have a safety record that is nearly spotless. According to a 2011 report from the International Group of LNG Importers, more than 135,000 LNG carrier voyages have taken place without major accidents or safety or security problems, either in port or at sea. Others point to some safety concerns. A 2009 report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service warned that LNG spills can unleash explosive vapor clouds. In Algeria, a 2004 blast at an LNG facility killed 27 workers and injured 72. In April, 2014, there was an explosion at an LNG storage facility in Washington State. There were injuries, but no deaths, and the incident was a rarity for the industry’s track record in the U.S. The cause is still under investigation.
Staton said that he does not believe the facility poses any danger to the area, and noted that they use advanced technology to constantly monitor and properly maintain the pipelines and other infrastructure. And the liquid itself, Staton said, is inert. The open house, he said, is a part of their effort, and responsibility, to educate people about the industry. In their literature, VG is committed to minimizing environmental impacts, complying with stringent environmental regulations, and restoring impacted areas after completion of construction. Plaquemines Council Chair Benny Rousselle said that the VG project is a welcome opportunity to bring jobs and diversify the parish’s economy, especially in light of low oil prices. “We want to be the kind of community partner that we all would expect,” Staton said.