By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
A small group of environmental activists stood holding signs outside the Port Isabel Cultural and Event Center Wednesday evening. Written in large block letters on many of those signs were the words “No LNG.” Nearby, a few stragglers quickly walked up the steps of the building and headed inside where a company called Texas LNG was hosting an open house.
Texas LNG, a Houston based company, is currently one of five companies seeking to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility along the Brownsville Ship Channel. The facilities would refrigerate natural gas, condensing it down into a liquid form that could then be transported on ships across the globe.
As one of the geographically largest port authorities in the country with land available for new industrial development, along with being the closest American port to the Panama Canal, the Port of Brownsville presents an attractive location opportunity for companies hoping to profit from the emerging LNG export industry.
Texas LNG, like the other four interested companies, are currently seeking leasing permits. The process is a protracted one — taking up to two years to complete — and includes environmental studies and intensive facility design planning at the cost of tens of millions of dollars per company. Another part of that process includes offering opportunities for the public to educate themselves on LNG, as well as voice questions or concerns to both the companies and the federal government.
Thus the Texas LNG open house.
Several dozen people filled the room, shuffling from table to table where large presentation boards listed facts with bullet points and glossy photos. Nearby, representatives from Texas LNG, Samsung Engineering, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Port of Brownsville stood ready to answer questions.
Among them stood Texas LNG Chief Operating Manager Langtry Meyer, who spoke optimistically about creating a dialogue with the community. “Let me start with the big picture. Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel. …So if you think about it – a global impact – natural gas can displace very dirty fuels like coal. That’s a good thing for the world,” he said. “What we are building is a high technology super refrigerator,” he said, clarifying that LNG facilities do not refine natural gas, but physically alter it from a gas to a liquid.
Of the five companies seeking permitting, Texas LNG’s proposed lease site is one of the smallest at only 625 acres, Meyer said. Of that land, the facility itself is expected to occupy approximately one-third of that land. “Smaller is smarter,” he said. Meyer also explained Texas LNG plans to power its facility with electricity from the existing grid.
In response to criticisms that LNG facilities would damage the environment, Meyer said emphasized that the Port of Brownsville is already an industrial zoned area. “What we try to do is we avoid economic (sic) sensitive areas, like wetlands. We try to do our best to do that, and minimize, and then eventually mitigate,” he said. Referring to a satellite image of the proposed lease site, he pointed out a wetland region, saying, “Think about this area here. This is within our land, but we’re not using this area. So this, in some ways, this is protected. We’re not going to alter this area.” When asked if maintaining the environmental status of that land was a promise, Meyer paused for several seconds before saying the proposed facility is still in the early stages of planning.
Photos by Dina Arévalo and Sergio Treviño.
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