La Entrada al Pacifico’s goals have changed some since its 1997 inception with the 1,200-mile trade corridor now posing the lucrative prospect of natural gas exports.
Congress has not yet approved the sale of American natural gas from the wellhead to foreign buyers, but the compressed form of it might be exported as a refined product when a pipeline under construction from the border city of Ojinaga, Chihuahua, to the western Mexico seaport of Topolobampo is completed, says Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance President James Beauchamp.
Beauchamp added that the right of Permian Basin producers to export compressed natural gas might end up being contested in court, but he believes they would prevail.
He said the Mexican government has spent the equivalent of $64 million dredging Topolobampo from a depth of 35 to 42 feet and is loading ships from China and other countries with bulk shipments of grain, corn and other agricultural products, mostly from the heavily agricultural state of Sinaloa.
In 2012, Beauchamp said, a total of 570,671 vehicles, including 11,286 18-wheeler trucks, headed north from the border at Ojinaga-Presidio, where the bridge needs to be widened and where Mexican trucks usually off-load to American trucks. “From a trade and commerce standpoint, most of it is always going to be about Chihuahua and Texas,” he said.
“There has been a 110-percent increase in traffic on Highway 349 south of Midland in the last 10 years. We have oil in our area but a lot of gas, too. It has never been economical to capture and try to sell gas at $1.80 per cubic foot, but in other places it brings $4 to $6. Mexico has no natural gas.”
Beauchamp said it’s encouraging that Jones Brothers Dirt Paving of Odessa and the Texas Department of Transportation are in the midst of a 13-mile, $18.3-million job south of Lamesa to complete making 349 a four-lane highway from Midland to Lamesa. That project, a key La Entrada link, is scheduled for completion in the fall next year.
On the American side, La Entrada runs north from Presidio on U.S. 67 to I-10 and I-20, FM 1788 to the 349 reliever route named the Nadine and Tom Craddick Highway, 349 to Lamesa, U.S. 87 to Lubbock and I-27 to Amarillo.
Other corridor-related plans include the Lamesa Southern Cross Connector, linking Highways 349 and 137 to U.S. 87 and set to be contracted for next May, and the widening of 349 to four lanes north of Sterling City, which has been let.
TxDOT spokesman Gene Powell of Odessa said in an email that Jones Brothers are building passing lanes on 20 miles of 349 in south Midland County. “We also plan to add passing lanes to 349 in Upton County,” Powell said.
State Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, said through a spokesman that he “supports improving highways and transportation infrastructure all across West Texas.
“It’s important to continue ensuring that travel across West Texas is safe for students as they begin this new school year and that the economy continues to grow,” the spokesman said in Landgraf’s behalf.
Beauchamp, noting that the Mexican government’s construction of a good 140-mile road from Ciudad Chihuahua to Ciudad Ojinaga in 2004-05 was the most significant step to date, said, “The corridor is not one big project and never will be.
“The name is a marketing tool. What we will have is a series of efficiencies on the route to improve its traffic volume, safety or time-saving.”
He said the government of Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto is finishing the last 56 miles of a road through the enormous Copper Canyon, north of Topolobampo, working from the middle toward each end. “Topolobampo is now a mega port, and they have a PEMEX (national oil company) facility there,” said Beauchamp.
“It will remain a bulk port and natural gas port. They have a gas pipeline now, and American companies are building a sister line from there to Ojinaga. It’ll come in handy if we have a change in the law and can export natural gas.
“From a Mexican governmental perspective, they are 100 percent in favor of it because they’re converting their electrical plants from coal to natural gas. Most of the time, their government is more pro-active than ours.”
He said most Mexican citizens who use gas heat “are carrying propane tanks” and that a plentiful natural gas supply would lower their country’s cost of electrical generation by 60 percent.
This article was written by Bob Campbell from Odessa American, Texas and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.