Shale gas boom leads to huge expansion at Port of Houston

Houston Chronicle:
Companies tied to the Houston Ship Channel are in an expansion frenzy, aGreater Houston Port Bureau survey shows.

The industry association's survey of major companies in the Houston port region estimates those businesses will invest $35 billion in capital and maintenance between 2012 and 2015.

The figure is extrapolated from firm figures showing businesses will invest $21.1 billion in capital and maintenance from 2012 to 2015 - a big jump from earlier in the decade.

While investment in maintenance is projected to see some increase this year, the spike is due almost entirely to investment in infrastructure, which more than doubled from 2011 to 2012 and is expected to double again by 2014.

Port Bureau president Bill Diehl said the increase is rooted in the domestic natural gas boom with refineries and others spending billions to expand facilities to accommodate more of the cheap, cleaner-burning fuel.

The country has built up a glut of natural gas in recent years as drillers have learned to extract it, and oil, from dense rock formations using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

That is "not all of it, but that's what triggered it," Diehl said.

Through a mix of survey responses and information pulled from stockholder disclosures and other public documents, the association found a firm $28.8 billion in capital and maintenance investments would be made in the Ship Channel from 2010 to 2015.

Even with a promise of anonymity, just 51 of 132 targeted companies responded to the survey, which was conducted last fall at the request of the Port of Houston Authority.

The association assumed additional investments, including those by private companies that did not respond to the survey and are not required to disclose information, to reach the $35 billion estimate.
There is more.

The story gives several examples of planned projects.  Estimates of construction jobs alone are over 117,000.  While not directly associated with the port, I think pipeline expansion from the shale oil fields will be substantial just to get the oil and gas to market.  I also expect the port of Houston will build facilities for exporting gas to the Asian and European market.  All of which will create not only construction jobs but long term employment at the port.


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