The massive twin tanks that stand on the horizon southeast of Pascagoula, Miss., are part of a natural gas terminal that is more than one-third complete.
The Port of Pascagoula's newest industry is Gulf LNG Energy's $1.1-billion terminal.
LNG stands for liquefied natural gas, a super-cooled product that the huge tanks will hold. The tanks just passed a construction milestone -- workers raised the roofs.
With them fully under way, the company is able to say the project will be finished on time, in the fall of 2011.
When complete, the plan is to have as many as 150 tankers a year bring natural gas, cooled to a liquid state (260 degrees below 0), into the terminal from other countries.
There the liquid will be piped to the tanks for storage, where it remains a liquid until it's needed. Then it will be warmed through a series of serpentine pipes in a water bath, turned back into a gas and piped throughout the United States to heat homes or run cars.
Those two tanks have the capacity to store enough natural gas to supply the state of Mississippi for a week, 6.6 billion cubic feet.
They dominate the terminal that sits on a spit of land at the end of Industrial Road, leased by the company from the Port of Pascagoula.
Gulf LNG will become one of the port's biggest clients, quite a statement for a port that's located in the state's most industrialized county.
Allen Moeller, deputy Port director, said Gulf LNG can be compared in significance to Jackson County getting the grain elevator in the early 1960s.
"It's big," Moeller said. And since it's on port land, it will generate rent as well as cargo fees. The many private industries that use the port, pay by the ton for moving cargo.
"It's been a long time since something of this magnitude has been developed on the public port facilities," he said.
It could generate $3 million to $4 million a year, based on the company's cargo projections, he said. The port, however, also will incur the expense of keeping the tanker berth dredged to the needed depth. And part of Gulf LNG's rent will go to the state Tidelands Fund because the property is subject to the tide. The pier and dock will accommodate one tanker at a time and are expected to be complete in January. The dredging was done two years ago.
The terminal also will have an administration building and an assortment of buildings that will link the storage tanks to the pipelines that lead off the property and feed into major gas distribution lines. Pilings have been driven to fortify all the foundations for those buildings.
As a measure of protection, the company constructed a 27-foot, concrete wall around the terminal. It was finished last month, in time for the hurricane season's last storm. The crews closed the steel gate for Ida and watched the tide rise about 5 feet, said Scott Wagner, manager of project engineering for Gulf LNG.
"The water got to the top of the foundation," Wagner said. "We had 24 feet of wall above that.
"The idea is that Katrina pushed a surge here of about 18 feet," he explained.
Using that surge as a worst-case scenario, the 27-foot wall gives them nine feet of free board to handle any wave action. They didn't really need to close the gate for Ida, Wagner said, but they did it because they could, to test the wall.
"It's very effective," he said.
Copyright (c) 2009, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.