Representatives from three liquefied natural gas companies answered questions about the environmental and economic impact their proposed projects will have during a public affairs luncheon hosted by the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce.
“Great questions,” Mitchell Walk, commercial manager for Annova LNG, said about the panel discussion, held last Tuesday in the Brownsville Event Center. “I think it gave each project the opportunity to explain why it’s going to be good for Brownsville and for the greater South Texas region. It gave people who maybe didn’t know everything they wanted to know already about LNG a chance to ask some questions and, hopefully, get some answers to what they had questions about.”
Joining Walk in the panel discussion were Kathleen Eisbrenner, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of NextDecade LLC, who represented Rio Grande LNG, and David Glessner, permitting general manager of TexasLNG.
Rio Grande LNG is a proposed natural gas liquefaction and liquefied natural gas export facility. Rio Grande LNG is being developed and managed by NextDecade LLC.
Texas LNG is an independent LNG export project with plans to be located in the Port of Brownsville and produce 2 MTA (million tonnes per annum) of LNG beginning in 2020.
Annova LNG, an Exelon Generation company, is exploring the development of a mid-scale natural gas liquefaction and transfer facility at the Port of Brownsville.
All three projects would be located along the Brownsville Ship Channel. The terminals will convert the natural gas to liquid that could be loaded on tanker ships for export.
Jude Benavides, an environmental sciences associate professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, served as the panel moderator.
“It was a great job by the Brownsville Chamber to have an opportunity for their members to ask questions that are important to them directly to the representatives of the three companies,” Benavides said after the event. “This is a heated debate and topic. … There are people who are certainly opposed to LNG here in Brownsville and there are people who are strongly in favor.”
Benavides asked the panel what economic impact LNG export facilities would have.
“There will be an investment of about $8 billion,” Eisbrenner replied. “It will take about 5,100 people and skilled jobs to construct over a period of about 6.7 years.”
Walk said the construction of the project would support an average of 675 on-site jobs over a four-year period. Once operational, the facility would employ about 165 workers at an average salary of about $70,000 a year, according to the annovalng.com website.
Glessner said the number and types of jobs will depend on the location and project that will be worked on but that there would be a substantial number of jobs for the people in Cameron County.
Members of the audience were given the opportunity to ask questions regarding the LNG project.
“Once that gas is loaded on a ship and that ship heads out on that ship channel, we have folks that are concerned that it will close down the ship channel for an extended period of time and will have to evacuate to a three-mile radius,” said Roxane Guenzel, president of the South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce. “I’d like you to address that transport issue.”
“We’ve gotten ship channel transits,” Walk said. “It takes about an hour and a half for [a ship] to go from the Gulf of Mexico to our site. … During that time, there will be no other ship or no other traffic allowed on the channel. … There will be a security zone around the ship.” In an interview with The Rider, Guenzel said the panel discussion was informative.
“My question was answered,” she said. “I feel the two-year process that they’re going through will address any safety or environmental concerns. I’mcomfortable. Whatever [the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] decides, let’s go with it.”
Benavides invited his environmental sciences students to the event. “It was really informative,” said Cecilia Espinosa, an environmental sciences junior. “I definitely learned a lot about what LNG is and what they’re going to bring to the community.”
Espinosa said she has fewer concerns about the LNG project after hearing the representatives of the three companies and is optimistic about what it can bring to the Brownsville community.
Psychology junior Clarissa Gonzalez also attended the panel discussion and said she believes the LNG project will benefit Brownsville.
“A lot of issues that environmentalists are concerned with were addressed in this conference,” Gonzalez said. “I feel like a lot of questions that we might have had concerning the environment have, you know, definitely been addressed. … LNG moving forward would probably be a good thing, economically speaking, considering that these companies are taking this sort of environmental precautions.”