For decades Southwest Louisiana has been a major player on a national scale when it comes to industry and energy. In the last decade, the development of the Liquified Natural Gas market has given the region a seat at the world's energy table.
With Cameron LNG already exporting liquified natural gas, and several other facilities in the planning or permitting stages, the supply will soon be meeting the demands around the world. In Southwest Louisiana, the facility that will be located closest to Sulphur is in the process of getting its proverbial ducks in a row.
Driftwood LNG, which is located south of Carlyss off La. 27 on Global Drive via Burton Shipyard Road, has positioned itself to begin construction in late 2019. Parent company Tellurian has already received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and should have its financial investment decision in place by the end of 2019. Companies Total and Petronet have announced interests in partnering with Tellurian and a third, Vitol, has committed to buying LNG from Driftwood.
Once all five plants at the Driftwood LNG facility are operational, Tellurian said it should be exporting more than 27 million tons per year. Other facilities will be following suit on both the west and east sides of the Calcasieu River Channel in addition to Cameron Parish.
"There is a shift to utilizing natural gas as a source of energy around the world," Heather Hohensee, government and public affairs manager with Tellurian, said. "There was a time when the U.S. thought we would have to import the gas to meet our future demand and growth. Advancements in technology led to the industry being able to access the gas, such as Haynesville (Shale) in Louisiana.
When natural gas is cooled at minus-260 degrees, it becomes a liquid. In its liquid form, volume is reduced by a factor of 600.
"As a liquid, you can cost-effectively transport. A lot of our gas in the U.S. is transported by pipeline. However, if you're going to send gas overseas, you're obviously not going to ship by pipeline. How do you get it across? You transport by ship. There was a change of the U.S. going from an import country to an export country with the excess of gas available," she explained. "It not only means energy independence for our country but also a great economic driver."
Why is Southwest Louisiana becoming the center of the LNG industry? Simple geography, really. The land space and access to shipping lanes through the Gulf of Mexico makes it an obvious choice. It also helps that Louisiana has the pipeline infrastructure in place to be able to ship the natural gas to LNG facilities.
"This is setting Southwest Louisiana up to be the clean energy capital of the U.S.," Hohensee told members of the Sulphur Kiwanis Club. "This is putting Southwest Louisiana on the map around the world. What's happening here with the LNG industry is not only important on a national level, but a global level."
This point was driven home in May when President Donald Trump visited Cameron LNG facility in Hackberry to celebrate the activation of its first train.
For Driftwood LNG, that process is coming. Once construction begins, there will be 6,500 jobs created. The total cost of the facility is estimated at $15.2 billion. Once the facility is in total operation, there will be 400 permanent jobs created.
"The economic impact for our community is massive in terms of investment and job opportunities," Hohensee said. "And then you have a trickle-down effect. While we're creating 400 permanent jobs here, that means even more jobs needed in the community."
The timeline for operation, according to Hohensee and Tellurian, is to have the first plant operational by 2023 and to have all five plants producing by 2026. That will be when Driftwood is expected to produce the 27.6 million tons per year.
Tellurian is also being active in developing natural gas pipelines into Southwest Louisiana.
In addition to FERC approval for the actual LNG facility, Tellurian received FERC approval for its pipeline project — with plans in the future of developing a pipeline from north Louisiana where Haynesville Shale is located.
"The Tellurian Pipeline Network represents a $7 billion investment in U.S. infrastructure," Hohensee said. "We are proposing several other pipelines, including in north Louisiana, so we can bring natural gas supply to the Lake Charles area."
The Driftwood LNG facility, once completed, will have the capacity to moor up to three ships, with capacity to load two ships at any given time. Once the gas is liquified, it will be stored in large tanks on-site and ready for loading through a pipeline into the moored ships.
"If you look at what these storage tanks are like, it's almost like a massive Yeti cup," Hohensee said. "Basically, the liquified gas is cooling itself like a thermos."
Tellurian has also been proactive in communicating with residents nearby where Driftwood LNG will be built, for sake of transparency.
"Over the last two years, the Tellurian team has spoken to business and civic organizations and has held multiple meet-and-greets with residents to keep them informed about the Driftwood LNG project status and answer questions," Hohensee said.