Area restaurants, RV parks and hotels may benefit from a brief economic boon as hundreds of workers construct a portion of a 658-mile pipeline project a few miles west of Early.
The Shin Oaks Pipeline will cut across the heart of Texas, linking Enterprise Products L.P.’s Natural Gas Liquid Fractionation and Storage Plant in Gaines County, near the Texas/New Mexico boarder, to its Permian Basin NGL fraction and storage complex in Mont Belvieu outside of Houston.
“The Permian Basin is currently the hottest play in North America and is expected to continue its strong growth for years to come,” said A.J. “Jim” Teague Enterprise Products L.P. said in a press release announcing the project in April of 2017. “The Shin Oaks pipeline project is part of Enterprise’s larger plans in the Permian to leverage our integrated midstream assets to link supplies of cost-advantaged U.S. hydrocarbons to the largest domestic and global NGL markets.”
Liquid natural gas has a variety of uses and derivative products, but it’s primarily used for as a method of transporting natural gas over long distances. According to an article by Reuters News Service published in January, China will soon become the world’s largest importer of LNG as it weans itself off of coal-fueled power plants. The article further speculated the U.S. would become the world’s leading LNG producer by 2023.
“Right now, along the pipeline itself, there are 2,000 contractors working, but in that particular area there are 100 to 200 max in that area,” said Rick Rainey, a media relations specialist with Enterprise. “Of course, for the local economy and business, it creates goods and services to support the project – food, laundry, equipment supplies. Any kind of service or equipment they need they typically go local. It creates economic benefits locally, plus it will contribute to the local tax base once it’s in service.”
Work on the project began in late June and Rainey said work in Brown County should wrap up sometime in December. Once the 24-inch pipeline is in place, it will transport up to 600,000 barrels of LNG per day. The pipeline is expected to go online sometime in mid 2019 and will be under 24-hour surveillance with overseers watching for any leaks or structural issues from the air, the ground and inside the pipeline itself.
“Pipelines have proven to be the safest mode of transportation for essential energy products we use every day,” Rainey said. “Whether it’s fuel or home heating, it basically eliminates the need for additional trucks on the road, which create issues because they go through populated areas. To protect our pipelines, we have a very comprehensive safety and management program.
“These will be remotely monitored from a control room. We do regular inspections, required by the railroad commission; we use computerized equipment and run smart tape through the line on a regular basis to determine the condition of the pipe from the inside. We run aerial patrols probably every two weeks.”