Business

State port snares tenant expected to pay millions a year in fees

Bruce Hall, president and COO of SeaOne, sits in front of a model of the production plant the company plans for the Port of Gulfport’s West Pier. The port commission approved a 40-year lease Thursday with SeaOne for acreage on the renovated and expanded West Pier.
Bruce Hall, president and COO of SeaOne, sits in front of a model of the production plant the company plans for the Port of Gulfport’s West Pier. The port commission approved a 40-year lease Thursday with SeaOne for acreage on the renovated and expanded West Pier. calee@sunherald.com

The state port has landed its biggest tenant in terms of space leased and projected tonnage exported, with a potential to collect millions a year in fees.

SeaOne Gulfport would receive gas and gas liquids at the port and use patented compressed gas liquid technology to prepare a single liquid product for delivery to the Caribbean. Plans are to expand for delivery to Central America as well.

The port’s board approved a 40-year lease Thursday for 36 acres at the south end of the expanded West Pier. Lease approval allows SeaOne to secure financing.

The first production facility would sit on about 7 acres. After the port prepares the site, executive director Jonathan Daniels said, SeaOne will have 180 days to show financing is in place or the lease terminates.

“The port’s pleased to conclude nearly two years of negotiations with SeaOne,” Daniels told the Sun Herald. “Development of this project at the Port of Gulfport further diversifies the customer base and will lead to a significant increase in tonnage and revenue.

“Once developed, SeaOne will become the largest contributor of revenues to the port.”

Daniels said SeaOne’s facility also would help the port make a case with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a deeper and wider ship channel. The port’s 36-foot-deep channel will accommodate ships planned for the project’s first phase, but SeaOne president and COO Bruce Hall said a deeper channel will be needed for future phases.

Hall said the company will spend $450 million on its initial plant. The company hopes to begin construction in early 2018 and commission the plant for operation in April 2020.

Hall said the company is negotiating with a supplier of gas and gas liquids for delivery to the port by pipeline. He said he could not disclose the supplier’s name until an agreement is reached.

The supplier is working on permits to extend to the port two pipelines — one for natural gas and one for liquid gas — from east-west lines that already run near Interstate 10.

The plant would be highly automated, requiring 45 employees at an average salary of $70,000 a year, including engineers, and production and support staff.

The first phase would focus on exports to the Dominican Republic, where the product would be separated and reprocessed for shipment to Puerto Rico.

SeaOne will pay $270,000 a year to lease the acreage after the site is prepared and before operations begin. After the plant is operating, the land lease climbs to $2.7 million a year, with millions more in wharfage fees expected based on tonnage exported.

The initial plant would be capable of shipping 6 million to 8 million cargo tons a year, Daniels said. Hall said full build-out would allow shipment of more than 300 million cargo tons a year.

Hall said a timeline is still being developed for future phases.

“We know for the next 25 years, the price of gas is going to be stagnant,” he said. “It is a perfect time in the energy business where the customers get the benefit.”

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99

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