Pipeline safety agency looking at sites for new LNG office; LC under consideration

Published 12:18 pm Thursday, July 13, 2023

The new LNG Center for Excellence at McNeese State University could house the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration (PHMSA) National Center of Excellence in LNG Safety. That was just one of the news items shared by Jim Rock, Lake Area Industry Alliance (LAIA), at the West Calcasieu Chamber monthly luncheon this week.

Rock is executive director of the 24-member industry group that provides one voice for Southwest Louisiana industries.

LAIA is a channel of communication between industries and the community, civic leaders, elected officials, educators and non-profits.

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He shared progress regarding the construction of The LNG Center for Excellence at McNeese, where he hopes PHMSA will decide to headquarter.

“McNeese was successful in getting a grant for $2.8 million to build an LNG Center for Excellence,” Rock said. The two-story building will be near the corner of Ryan Street and Sale Road with a groundbreaking scheduled for Aug. 16.”

Rock said the total cost of the project will be between $13-$14 million. The grant was just a start. The parish, city, port and area industries have made commitments to move forward. Currently a curriculum is being developed.

PHMSA is a new federal agency headquartered in Washington, D.C., that will regulate, among other things, the LNG industry. By law, the agency has to have a national center. U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., wrote legislation in such a way that looks good for the state, saying the headquarters would need to be in the state with the most LNG exports, according to Rock.

If PHMSA locates in Lake Charles, it will bring eight to 10 high-paying jobs and millions in research.

“It would be a big feather in the cap of Southwest Louisiana,” Rock said.

Southern University and Louisiana State University are pulling for PHMSA to locate in Baton Rouge.

Rock said primacy and carbon capture would also be good for Southwest Louisiana.

He testified recently in a hearing in favor of Louisiana having primacy in the permitting of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects, rather than The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has permitted only two Class VI commercial projects in a decade.

“I’ve seen a heck of a lot of change in 46 years and I think carbon capture and sequestration will definitely be part of the solution,” Rock said.

CO2 would be stored about a mile-and-half to two miles underground, compressed  into Southwest Louisiana’s alkaline-type bed.

“We have the pipelines for transmission, the know-how to drill, operate and manage the wells and the perfect geology for deep injection. We just need to expedite permitting,” he said.

“The EPA has had the authority to grant those permits since 2010 and they do have the right to turn that authority over to a state agency. In 13 years they have done that in North Dakota and Wyoming.”

Rock also shared highlights of tax contributions, payroll, educational endeavors, nonprofit donations and volunteer hours of LAIA companies and member employees.

One of the many community events in which LAIA industry employees are engaged is an annual recovery and recycling of paint. Like paint colors and types are poured into five-gallon buckets. Last year, nonprofits departed from the event with every gallon, probably because work was still being completed after hurricane damage. This year, more gallons were collected. Not as many nonprofits showed up to claim it. That paint is available.

“As long as whatever you have doesn’t take more than five gallons of paint, because every five gallon bucket is a different color,” Rock said.

The Ward 4 Marshal’s Office was recognized for its service, and Cheniere Energy was named the West Cal Chamber Business of the Month at the Chamber meeting.

New Chamber member Whataburger brought plenty of orange SWAG to the luncheon. The new eatery is under construction and Amie Abshire, an operating partner, said it will be located across the street from Taco Bell on Cities Service Hwy. this fall.