TEXAS CITY — While a 900-acre site near the Texas City Dike may appear to be the favorite to lure a $2 billion to $4 billion methanol plant to the area, the competition is not yet over, economic development and city officials stressed Wednesday.
As The Daily News first reported last month, Texas City and an undisclosed site in Louisiana are in the running to land the facility to be built by Connell Chemical Industry Inc., a Chinese-based chemical company. Texas City is pitching Shoal Point, a peninsula located near the Texas City Dike along the Texas City Ship Channel.
On Wednesday, Texas City commissioners approved an agreement to terminate what had been a 10-year exclusive development agreement with Seattle-based SSA Marine. That company had plans to develop a multimillion-dollar container terminal at Shoal Point.
Those plans never went beyond drawings, as SSA Marine was unsuccessful in attracting shipping companies willing to partner with the company for the development of what was supposed to be the Texas City International Terminal.
“If SSA couldn’t get the container terminal there, nobody in the world could have done it,” Mayor Matt Doyle said. “SSA (was) a great partner for 10 years and did the best job they could.”
The city commission’s action Wednesday cleared the way for another type of project to be built at Shoal Point. Under the exclusive agreement with SSA Marine, only a container terminal could be built on the property, much of which is owned by the state and controlled by the Texas General Land Office.
In a side agreement between the city and SSA Marine, that company can still market the property. The city controls 300 acres of the land while the state owns about 600 acres.
“It’s a special piece of property,” Doyle said. “Neither of these properties is going to develop without each other.”
Bix Rathburn, the president and CEO of the Galveston County Economic Alliance, said the fact that it is in the running for the methanol plant shows great promise.
“(The site is) uniquely blessed with deep-water access within a world-class petrochemical complex to support the development of a substantial chemical or petrochemical manufacturing and export complex,” Rathburn said in his first public confirmation that Shoal Point was in the running for a major project.
“The size of this site and the proximity to the open waters of the Gulf Coast make this site especially valuable for prospects interested in utilizing the capabilities of the expanded Panama Canal in 2016.”
Doyle said that at one point more than 50 companies were competing for the project. Now it is just the two.
Rathburn’s expertise with international shipping was a key factor in getting the Shoal Point location in the running. He first brought the proposal to then-Alliance CEO Don Gartman at the first of the year.
While there were hopes that an announcement about the project was anticipated by some as soon as this week, any final decision is a long way off.
“No final site selection decision or final project plan is expected to be announced before the second quarter of 2015,” Rathburn said.
Doyle and Rathburn said that luring the project to Texas City has been a team effort involving the county and city along with the Texas City school district and College of the Mainland.
Company officials, including Chairwoman Song Zhiping, met with city, county, school district and college officials last month. A team of engineers has been in town since that meeting researching the site.
In addition to the hundreds of expected construction jobs, it is estimated that as many as 600 people would be employed at the plant.
County Judge Mark Henry said based on his visits with Connell Chemical; the project could eventually be larger than initially proposed.