After years of construction and planning, one of the Coastal Bend’s biggest industrial investments is officially gearing up to start operations. Cheniere’s $14 billion liquefied natural gas terminal in San Patricio County is now in the startup and commissioning process.
This is only the start of business for the LNG plant. It’s preparing to open the first of three "liquefication trains." Construction started on this unit in 2015.
Matt Barr, Director of State and Local Government & Public Affairs for Cheniere, explains, "There’s no locomotives. There’s no railroad tracks. It’s the industry term for the LNG production unit."
However, starting the full operation of the train isn’t as simple as flipping a switch.
"There’s different equipment and machinery that must be tested and put through different standards and brought up to specifications as we move towards producing our first LNG, shipping our first LNG cargo and going into service," Barr tells KRIS 6 News.
Cheniere held an open house in Portland on Wednesday night to shed more light on the process and let neighbors know about some of the changes they might see.
For example, Barr says that there will be flaring from the facility during the startup and commissioning phase. He says it’s a safe and necessary component of getting the train ready for service.
More than anything, Barr says the community outreach lets the public know about the inner workings of a project that’s given a huge economic boost to the region.
"We had a peak construction workforce of about 5,000 construction workers on our site and we’ve hired approximately 300 full-time jobs," Barr says in describing the financial impact.
He says that impact will continue with two more production units getting closer to the finish line.
"There will be construction and ongoing activity here for the next several years which is going to be important to us as a company but also to our community as well."
The first LNG train is set to go into service in the first half of next year, with the second following in the later half of 2019. Construction continues on the third unit, which Cheniere hopes to have complete by 2021.