TEXAS CITY — Hopes that Shoal Point would someday become a massive cargo terminal appear to be no more. Still, the city is in the running for something that could prove to be bigger, city and county officials confirmed.
Officials have been in talks with a Chinese company to build a $2 billion to $4 billion methanol plant at Shoal Point. A delegation from Connell Chemical Industry Inc. met with Mayor Matt Doyle, County Judge Mark Henry, Galveston County Economic Alliance and school district and college officials last week.
Doyle said he was given estimates that as many as 600 jobs could be created, while Henry said that if the project reaches its full potential the jobs created could exceed 1,000.
“When this started it was an $800 million project,” Henry said. “But as we have all continued to talk, it could be $10 billion within five years.”
While at first doubtful about the prospects of landing the project, Doyle said after last week’s meetings he is more hopeful.
“(Connell) is making a real commitment to researching this project and the location,” Doyle said.
Last week’s meeting included the company’s chairwoman, Song Zhiping, as well as company designers and financial advisers, Doyle and Henry said. The meetings went so well that six company officials are now stationed in Galveston County, Doyle said.
Henry said company officials told him a decision could come by the end of the year.
The city and county are putting together an economic incentive package that could include tax abatements and infrastructure enhancements.
Henry said one shortcoming is the access to potable water, but that is something that could be overcome.
“You are not going to find a more cooperative group of government bodies working to assist (Connell) on this project,” Henry said. “From the county, to the city and schools, we have all come to the table ready to help make this work.”
Texas City is one of two communities in the running for the project. The other potential spot is in Louisiana.
The Shoal Point site is what has Texas City in the running.
“It is a prime piece of real estate,” Henry said. “(Other communities) will have a hard time matching that anywhere else.”
To get use of the property, the city had to find a way to end its lease with SSA Marine.
Doyle said the city and SSA Marine are working on an agreement to end the Seattle-based port operator’s exclusive lease on the 1,000-acre peninsula near the Texas City Dike. Doyle said it’s a mutual effort of the city and SSA Marine to end the lease.
The state, which owns much of the Shoal Point acreage, would also have to reach an agreement, Doyle said. SSA Marine paid the state $100,000 and the city $30,000 annually to hold on to that lease, but as the two sides worked out an agreement, SSA Marine did not make its scheduled payment that was due Friday.
SSA Marine officials did not respond to The Daily News.
It was more than 10 years ago that SSA Marine announced plans to build what was to be the Texas City International Terminal. The cargo terminal was to include 6,000 feet of dock space for massive cargo ships and 400 acres for a container yard that could handle 2.45 million containers.
It was an attractive project for SSA Marine because Texas City was able to deepen its channel to 45 feet — enough to handle large cargo ships that would pass through the soon-to-be expanded Panama Canal. Those same conditions make it attractive for the proposed methanol plant, Doyle said.
Connell has ordered about 60 new ships that would be used for up to 1,100 treks to and from the plant to ship product from its methanol plant to China and elsewhere.
SSA Marine started construction on the port facility in 2004, but never went beyond initial groundwork and the project has languished ever since. Meanwhile, the Port of Houston built a large container port north of Seabrook that is thought to have stolen some of the business hoped for the Texas City terminal.