Jackson County

Billion dollar LNG plant at Pascagoula wins federal approval

Two liquefied natural gas plants south of Pascagoula were approved Tuesday by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, according to reports by the Houston Chronicle and other media.

The Chronicle said the FERC approved the Gulf LNG project in a 3-1 vote Tuesday, and it is the fifth LNG export project the agency has approved this year as it catches up with a backlog of applications.

The Pascagoula facility was the oldest application still awaiting approval from the FERC.

“It’s a significant step,” said George Freeland, director of the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation., but it’s just a first step, he cautioned.

“The company is still going about the process of securing customers,” he said, “and that is in no way complete yet.”

Gulf LNG built two huge storage tanks and a terminal in 2011 for an import terminal at a cost of $1.1 billion. The plant was designed to import super-chilled natural gas at the site, store it, warm it from its liquid state back to a gas and distribute it around the country.

The facilities on 38 acres at Bayou Casotte near Chevron have been idle and on hold since then.

Kinder Morgan, based in Houston, owns 50 percent of Gulf LNG and originally filed an application to operate the plant as an import facility. But in 2012, when U.S. stores of national gas greatly increased due to fracking, the company asked for permission to export to the lucrative Asian markets and other areas of the world.

Before that can happen, Kinder Morgan would have to build a new plant and estimates it would take an additional $7 billion investment.

Should that happen, Freeland said it would translate into “significant new tax revenue” for Jackson County.

The FERC released the final environmental impact statement in April, a 357-page report that detailed the proposed facilities and the possible environmental effects of the construction and operation.

The report said the company estimates it would hire 1,720 workers from the local area during the peak of construction and 113 permanent new positions, with many of these positions expected to be filled by local hires.

The facility would generate $900 million in state and local taxes during construction, according to a 2012 Navigant Economics report, and annual Jackson County property tax would be as much as $65 million per year.

Mary Perez is the business and casino reporter for the Sun Herald and also writes about Biloxi, jobs and the new restaurants and development coming to the Coast. She is a fourth-generation journalist.