Louisiana businesses shake off oil sector woes
Louis Armstrong International Airport broke ground in January for a new terminal.
airport photo courtesy the city of new orleans; davis’ clothing and outdoor store photo courtesy their facebook page; geismar photo courtesy shell chemical lp
A continuing decline in oil prices is not what the energy industry had in mind for 2016, but a plunge toward $30 per barrel oil is what they got nonetheless. The result has been a retrenchment such as the industry has not seen since the 1980s. Analysts said in January that oil companies have scrapped $380 billion in new projects, and more pain lies ahead.
But oil woes aside, projects in other sectors are continuing around the state. Here are highlights of a few.
Waste not, fuel up
Biorefining is the name of a game set to kick off this summer at a White Castle sugar mill. NRF BioEnergy is installing equipment that will turn sugarcane waste into biomass pellets for use as fuel in coal-fired plants. The bagasse pellets are similar to coal but do not contain the harmful gases that coal emits when burned, according to the company’s co-founder, Rick Buhr. The biorefinery being set up at the Cora Texas Sugar Mill plant is the first of 10 that NRF plans at sugar mills across south Louisiana at a total cost of about $300 million. Buhr said last fall that Louisiana is an ideal location for biorefining because the state harvests about 13 million tons of cane each year. Buhr said the projects all together could create 450 new jobs by 2019.
Record-Setting Terminal Takes Off
Work has begun on a billion-dollar project to turn Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport into the kind of up-to-date facility officials have been promising in south Louisiana for years. A groundbreaking occurred in January for the new North Terminal, which will build 30 gates to accommodate the larger planes now in wide use, along with a 2,000-car parking garage, a central utility plant and a ground transportation staging area. Plans also include an on-site hotel and an $87 million “flyover” from Interstate 10 that will enable easy access to the terminal. The project was announced in 2013 and could cost $950 million by the time all facets are complete. Slated to open by October 2018, the terminal could have a $1.7 billion impact on the local economy, generating as many as 13,000 jobs, according to some estimates.
Little Outdoor Store That Could
In a competitive business that’s dominated by large national players, a family-owned company in north Louisiana is more than holding it own. Davis’ Clothing and Outdoor, co-owned by Lee Davis and his brother B.J. Davis, is in its fourth generation of family ownership and in recent years has built a substantial following for its outdoor clothing sold online. The Davis brothers last year decided to expand to accommodate more in-store clothing sales, and they added space that tripled the size of their previous footprint. Lee Davis said clothing sales have been strong since the expansion opened, and the company has added a new firearms division as well.
New Life For Loop?
The underground oil storage infrastructure that for decades has enabled the storage of huge quantities of oil just off the Louisiana coast could become a hub for blending and trading crude oil if export-enabling improvements are funded at the site, consultants say. Operators of the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port have been discussing the with refinery customers the possibility of shipping Gulf of Mexico crude oil to Texas refineries. Officials say that enabling exports would require making the 48-inch pipeline that connects LOOP’s Clovelly storage facility to facilities in St. James Parish flow in both directions, or, alternatively, building a new parallel line. Enabling exports through the LOOP terminal would lower shipping costs and help open Asian markets for U.S. shale or Gulf of Mexico crudes, according to consulting firm RBN Energy LLC.
Shell Likes Ascension
The industrial hotbed of Ascension Parish continues to expand as Shell Chemical LP proceeds with plans to invest $717 million in a new linear alpha olefins manufacturing unit at the company’s existing complex. Shell has three alpha olefins units on its 800-acre Geismar site, on the east bank of the Mississippi River, and the new unit will produce about 468,000 tons of product a year. The addition will bring total capacity to more than 1.4 million tons, making Shell Geismar the largest such production facility in the world. Shells’ customers use olefins to make a wide range of products that are ultimately sold to consumers, the company said. The global market for olefins is headed for strong growth, according to industry analysts.