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West Chambers leaders hear positive report from industry

October 27, 2022

The annual State of Industry Luncheon of the West Chambers County Chamber of Commerce Tuesday featured familiar faces from the midstream energy business reporting on their industry sector, which is doing well but in a state of flux.

Five panelists spoke on the condition of industry in the area. 

Four were from companies that make use of the Barbers Hill Salt Dome to store natural gas and related products and provide services related to that storage—transportation and fractionation. They were Kevin Grandjean, director of engineering and construction with Energy Transfer; Robert E. Moss, senior vice president for Houston Region operations, Enterprise Products; Shawn Sandefur, director of plant operations for NGL fractionation and storage, ONEOK; and Rob Donaldson, senior vice president for NGL marketing and logistics, Targa Resources.The fifth speaker was Scott Castleman, representing Houston CCS Alliance. Houston CCS Alliance is a coordinated effort by major energy and chemical companies doing business in the region to develop carbon capture and storage to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Grandjean said Energy Transfer has seven fractionators operating in Mont Belvieu with another under construction. Construction of the new unit had been paused just before the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, but has now resumed. 

Moss said Enterprise Products has other processing units under construction. It also has a fractionating unit under construction again after a pause.

Sandefer said ONEOK also has a fractionator unit near completion after a pause in construction.

Moss said the United States enjoys energy security because of its internal production of fuels. The situation in Europe with the loss of Russian gas supplies shows the value of that security, he said.

Donaldson said it was just about 10 years ago that the United States imported energy. “It’s so significantly different than it was just a short time ago,” he said.

He said his job takes him around the world where he sees countries that look to the U.S. for their energy security.

Several of the speakers observed that even with the increasing presence of alternative energy sources, hydrocarbon-based energy will maintain a large role in energy for the foreseeable future. Also, the products derived from natural gas and its byproducts continue to be critical beyond the energy field.

The changes in the industry from the shift away from oil do affect local industry, though.

Moss said, “there’s a lot more to fossil fuels than just fuel.”

The company developed an evolutionary technology group about a year-and-a-half ago. The company already produces hydrogen, he said. It expects to be involved in the transportation side of carbon capture and storage. It is also looking at ammonia technology and circular technology.

Also, he said, “The oil and gas industry will be the first people to move significantly into carbon capture. We can make that work economically in time.”

Castleman was the final speaker and he focused on the Houston Carbon Capture and Storage Alliance, which was formed to facilitate carbon capture by Houston-area industry. It includes such major players at ExxonMobil, Chevron, Phillips 66, Air Liquide, BASF, Calpine, Dow, Ineos, Linde, Lyondellbasell, Marathon and Shell.

ExxonMobil is already involved in carbon capture in other areas, removing carbon dioxide from emissions and permanently storing it underground. 

Castleman said there are a number of projects underway with a goal of capturing and storing 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year by 2030 and 100 million metric tons a year by 2040.

By Mark Fleming, Baytown Sun