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State Looks To Energy Sector To Boost Economy, Jobs

By Evelina Burnett | Published 22 Aug 2014 01:01pm | comments
Governor Bryant and government and business leaders mark the opening of a new base oil plant at Chevron.

State leaders, including Governor Phil Bryant, are cheering the opening of a new base-oil plant at the Chevron Pascagoula Refinery as a sign of Mississippi’s growing prominence in the energy sector. But how much growth could there really be?

State and local leaders were in Jackson County Thursday to mark the opening of a new plant at the Chevron refinery. It’s called the Pascagoula Base Oil Plant, or PBOP, and it makes premium base oil, which is used to make lubricants such as motor oils.

Colleen Cervantes, president of Chevron Lubricants, explains why the company invested $1.4 billion dollars in the project.

"The reason we're investing in premium base oil is that's the growing part of the lubricants market," she says. "And positioning it here on the Gulf Coast is perfect for us because we want to ship it all over the world, and we run a very reliable operation here. It's just been wonderful for us - the start-up has been really, really smooth. It's been better than any start-up I've ever seen, and we're thrilled with what we're seeing in Mississippi."

The facility means more than 30 new jobs at Chevron, which employs around 1,600 people in Pascagoula.

Governor Phil Bryant says energy is a "game-changer" in Mississippi. He points to a proposed $8 billion project to export liquefied natural gas in Pascagoula, or the almost 300 permitted or planned wells in the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale in southwest Mississippi.

"I hope you notice a pattern here," he says. "Because in the energy division, more jobs are created at a higher pay level than most any other industry. So we're going to do all we can to grow the energy in this state, because energy works, and so does Mississippi."

The Mississippi Energy Institute says energy-related jobs in Mississippi pay an average of about $63,000 annually - that's almost twice the average private sector wage in the state.

Governor Bryant also pointed to a study by the Fraser Institute, a Canadian think tank, that ranked Mississippi the second best place in the world to invest in oil and gas.

Kenneth Green, the Fraser Institute's senior director of natural resources studies, says the ranking is based on surveys of petroleum executives and managers. Mississippi is ranked highly overall, but it's also in the third tier of jurisdictions - those with the smallest reserves, representing 1.1 per cent of the world's total proven reserves. 

In a statement last year, Green noted: "“While jurisdictions with relatively small proven oil and gas reserves and relatively little petroleum production such as Manitoba and Mississippi may achieve a high ranking, they cannot be expected to attract nearly as much investment as jurisdictions with similar attributes that also have much larger petroleum reserves.”

Green tells MPB News: "If a region has a relatively small resource, it's going to have had a smaller development sector, therefore it will have less in the way of regulation because there hasn't been any need to, compared to jurisdictions with historically large reserves that have a long history of production."

According to the Mississippi Energy Institute, 22,000 Mississippians work in the energy sector. That’s just under 3 percent of the state’s private sector jobs.
 

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Governor Bryant and government and business leaders mark the opening of a new base oil plant at Chevron.


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