June 26, 2014
An international gas pipeline, federal government approval for an LNG port facility, and a huge wind farm are a few of the projects driving an economic boom in the Rio Grande Valley. The region is situated in the midst of two of the largest energy fields in North America, the Eagle Ford Shale of Texas and the emerging Burgos Basin of northern Mexico.
Starr County in the western end of the Rio Grande Valley was chosen as the location for one the largest wind energy projects in the state of Texas estimated at over a half billion-dollar investment. "The wind generation projects will bring about 400 jobs to our area and dramatically infuse the local economy with spending and further investment," said Rose Benavidez, President of the Starr County Industrial Foundation. "The area has also seen an increase in employment and spending as a result of the 42" international pipeline from the Eagle Ford Shale currently under construction that when complete will deliver $7.5 million of natural gas daily to Mexican power plants.
At the opposite end of the Valley, approval has just been received from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for the construction and operation of an LNG export and liquefaction facility at the Port of Brownsville. Texas LNG of Houston has already begun engineering work to construct the plant on the north shore of the Brownsville Ship Channel. Another pipeline to be built from the Eagle Ford Shale to the port will deliver gas for liquefaction and loading.
"We currently have five projects that have land options for LNG Export Terminals at the Port of Brownsville," said Port Director Eduardo Campirano. "And those are significant, significant investments. One project alone during construction will produce 3,000 jobs, so you are talking about projects that are in the billions of dollars in private investment. In addition to the LNG projects, cheap natural gas will attract industry to the region. I believe we are going to see the next industrial renaissance occur in this area."
The Port of Brownsville also recently announced an agreement with OmniTRAX, one of the largest privately held railroad companies in North America, to operate a short line international route to connect freight to major rail routes from the port. The OmniTRAX will include development of a large-scale industrial park on land owned by the port.
Mike Willis, executive director of the South Texas Manufacturers' Association, expects similar business opportunities throughout the Rio Grande Valley because of its geographic proximity to the energy deposits.
"Mexico is investing the bulk of PEMEX's budget over the next two years in Northern Mexico," he explained. "So we have a good opportunity to be a jumping off point for drilling companies and sand and fracking materials and all of that in the Valley, the companies that will be serving northern Mexico will be staging their operations here."
Affordable housing, a sub-tropical climate, a young an increasingly educated work force, and easy access to international markets have also helped to sustain the Valley's economy and make it one of the fastest growing markets in the country.
About RSTEC: An alliance of economic development corporations, public entities, and businesses, RSTEC seeks to foster a thriving economy, educational opportunities, and improved quality of life by promoting the Rio Grande Valley and attracting growth businesses to the border region to take advantage of an educated work force and international markets.
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